Tag Archives: speaking the truth in love

The Other Edge of the Sword

“But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into Him in all things, which is the head, even Christ.” (Eph. 4:15)

When it comes to dealing with controversy, there are few verses more often quoted than the one above. It’s quoted so often, in fact, that I fear we are in danger of giving it mere cursory consideration instead of the thought it deserves.

Scripture is sharper than a double-edged sword, and this verse is no exception. Why, then, is it frequently treated otherwise? Judging from the way many people wield it, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Ephesians 4:15 simply means “be nice.” Avoid arguments. Pipe down. Keep your hands to yourself.

But what about the truth? What about the other edge of the sword?

All too often, in our eager pursuit of unity and peace among the brethren, we forget the entirety of Paul’s statement and focus solely on the part that tells us to love. We dislike controversy, so when it appears, our first reaction is to tell the troublemaker to keep his mouth shut. “You’re being unloving,” we chide. “Cut it out.”

The troublemaker might even have a legitimate position, but we still dislike him for making things uncomfortable. “You’re rocking the boat,” we say. “Sit down and shut up.”

And when that happens, whether we realize it or not, our attitude looks something like this: To hell with the truth, so long as we can all row gently down the stream. Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily…

Of course, that’s couching it in rather strong terms, but I think I’ve made my point: it is a real (and often realized) temptation to sacrifice truth at the Altar of Peace and Unity.

Are peace and unity important? Absolutely. And what about love? Isn’t that important? Again I say, absolutely. However, if these things are not backed by the truth, what are they? What are they really?

Is that kind of “peace” really peaceful? Is that kind of “unity” really unifying? Is that kind of “love” really loving?

I think not. Without truth to back them, these things cannot exist. Better to tell a builder, “Build me a house, but don’t worry about the foundation.” Yeah. Sure. Nice going, Einstein.

I think part of the problem lies in our flawed view of what love actually means. Bibical love isn’t a sugary sweetness that coats everything in a layer of cake icing. Biblical love is grounded “in deed and in truth.” (1 John 3:18)

Biblical love is ready and willing to call a spade a spade.

Don’t get me wrong: there are real troublemakers out there, just waiting to stir up dissension and strife. But what about those who do what they do and say what they say because they love the truth? Is there no place for them? Are we simply too chicken to acknowledge error if it upsets our little balancing act?

Some hills are not worth fighting for, but what about those that are? Set your feet and take a stand all alone, if no one else will join you. Fight there, bleed there, die there. But don’t budge an inch simply because you’re scared.

Will you offend someone? Probably. But is that truly what matters? Not stepping on toes? If that’s the determiner of when and where you open your mouth, something isn’t right.

Tell me which action shows greater love: telling an unbeliever that hell is their destination apart from Christ, or acting is if hell doesn’t even exist?

Truth is offensive. But truth is true. And it’s not optional.

Think about your position. Pray about your position. Examine your position in light of Scripture. If you are in error, say so and repent. But don’t violate your conscience out of some misplaced desire for peace. Remember the words of Martin Luther: “Peace if possible. Truth at all costs.”

By all means, let us speak the truth in love. But for God’s sake (and I do mean that), let it be the truth, and nothing else, that we speak.

Cyber War

There have been numerous articles written about how the internet has reshaped the way we interact with people. A recent article in Christianity Today noted that,

…the invention of social media, like blogs, Twitter, and Facebook, created a radical departure in communication. In pre-2004 Christianity (that is, Christianity before Facebook was invented), only a small group of Christian leaders and teachers had access to the printing press—but today everyone has WordPress. In pre-2004 Christianity it was difficult to become a published author, but today everyone is surrounded by dozens of “Publish” buttons.

Blogging is not an occupation to be taken lightly. You are in a position of leadership. Your thoughts, your beliefs, are available to the entire cyber world at the click of a button. And because of this “instant access” capability, it’s very easy lose sight of the responsibility to weigh our words. Instead of carefully considering what we’re going to say before we say it, we just sizzle and pop like cheap Chinese firecrackers.

“Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more
hope for a fool than for him.” (Proverbs 29:20)

These days, its a popular pastime to hop over to a prominent blog (say Challies or Veith), read the latest controversial post, and then throw oneself heart and soul into the vicious bar fight going on in the comments section. Put on your boxing gloves and angry eyebrows, ’cause it’s gonna get really ugly, really fast.

“There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but
the tongue of the wise brings healing.” (Proverbs 12:18)

Now, don’t misunderstand me: I’m all for respectful, reasoned debate. And I’ve been privy to several comment-thread discussions that have been a real pleasure to read and participate in. But too often, what I see is not respectful, reasoned debate: it’s all out war. The participants aren’t concerned with engaging in a thoughtful discussion. They’re more concerned with humiliating, wounding, and retaliating against their brothers in Christ.

Whatever happened to Ephesians 4:15? “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.”

When we catch sight of something in the blogosphere that we disagree with – whether it’s a post or a comment on that post – we don’t need to act as if the world is going to end if we don’t immediately respond. In fact, oftentimes the best thing to do is to just walk away: don’t respond at all. Resist that urge to pick a fight. In those cases where a response is in order, do so thoughtfully, firmly, and lovingly, in a manner consistent with the character of Him Whom you serve. Christians shouldn’t look at a debate as an opportunity to beat each other up. They should view it as an opportunity to teach, an opportunity to learn, an opportunity to quicken each other’s beliefs and convictions. Measure your words, for “death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.” (Proverbs 18:21)

“Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps
himself out of trouble.” (Proverbs 21:23)