Have you ever avoided a difficult conversation because you don’t like conflict? Maybe you’ve noticed a family member or a friend going the “wrong way,” but you couldn’t bring yourself to risk your relationship with them by speaking the truth. I know I have. Confrontation makes me uncomfortable. I’ve overlooked and ignored things, instead choosing to remain silent because I didn’t want to offend anyone or appear judgmental.
Did you know that speaking the truth in love is a command to the Church? Paul tells us this in Ephesians 4:15 NLT “Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.” A command is not optional, yet many of us avoid being” truth-tellers” at all costs because it is uncomfortable, we don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings, or we are afraid people won’t like us if we speak up. So why then should we rock the boat? Why are we commanded to speak the truth in love?
Speaking the truth in love sets people free.
Jesus promised that if we remain faithful to His teachings, we will know the truth and the truth will set us free (John 8:32 NLT.) We all have blind spots, things we can’t or don’t want to see about ourselves. David knew he did. He cried out to God, “How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart? Cleanse me from these hidden faults” (Psalm 19:12 NLT).
Sin and pride blind us from seeing the truth. When we can’t recognize the truth, we become bound to wrong beliefs, wrong actions, and false perceptions, which cause us to make decisions that can hold us prisoner. Sometimes God uses other believers to help us see our hidden faults and set us free. But we have to let Him. It’s possible to be bound to things and not even recognize you are a prisoner. Have you asked God lately to show you your blind spots? Have you allowed others to speak the truth into your life?
Speaking the truth in love shows people how much we love them.
Ezekiel, the Prophet, was passionate about speaking God’s word to his people because he loved them. Ezekiel 33:6 NLT says that if a watchman sees the enemy coming but doesn’t warn the people, the watchman is responsible for their captivity. Likewise, as Christians, we are to be watchmen for each other. If we see the enemy at work in another believer’s life, we have the responsibility to alert them. The risk of remaining silent far outweighs the risk of speaking up. Don’t just stand by and watch someone get perilously close to the edge without warning them they are in danger of falling. Because we love each other, we must speak the truth in love.
Speaking the truth in love helps us grow, and the church grow.
Truth is required for spiritual growth. We all need truth-tellers in our lives. Colossians 3:16 NIV tells us to “let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom…” The message of Christ is His Word, and His Word is Truth (John 17:17).
Admonish doesn’t mean to judge someone when their life doesn’t meet our standards; it doesn’t mean to get in someone’s face and” tell them how it is. “ Admonish means to instruct someone about a specific area in that person’s life that doesn’t line up with God’s Word, the truth. It’s saying to a friend, “I care enough about you that I am going to show you in God’s word the truth and help you align your life with this truth.”
We are called to be truth-tellers, but how exactly do we speak the truth in love?
We must speak from the right spirit, not from a heart of pride, or legalism, or self-righteousness but from a spirit of love and concern. When we need to have difficult conversations with others, we should approach them with humility. Paul tells us in Philippians 2: 3 AMP to “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit [through factional motives, or strife], but with [an attitude of] humility [being neither arrogant nor self-righteous], regard others as more important than yourselves.” It is easy to let our emotions guide our words, but we must remember that we are to speak from a spirit of love based on the Truth, not our feelings.
It is easy to let our emotions guide our words, but we must remember that we are to speak from a spirit of love based on the Truth, not our feelings.
We must speak from the position of a heavy heart, not from a place of satisfaction or glee. Paul’s heavy heart was evident when he wrote this to the church in Corinth: “I wrote that letter in great anguish, with a troubled heart and many tears. I didn’t want to grieve you, but I wanted to let you know how much love I have for you” (2nd Corinthians 2:4). If you are approaching the person with a sense of pleasure or with a sense of “I’m going to set you straight,” then you shouldn’t be having the conversation at all – your heart is not right. Love does not take satisfaction in someone else’s shortcomings or pain.
We must speak AND listen; truth-telling is not one person telling everyone else what they are doing wrong but speaking into others’ lives and allowing others to speak into ours. As a Church, we have to be committed to speaking the truth in love, not just as we preach or teach God’s word but on a personal level, through relationship. We are to submit ourselves to the authority of the church leaders and then to one another if we are to grow more and more like Jesus.
Is there someone in your life right now that you need to have that difficult conversation with? Before you do, first check your motivation. Why do you want to approach this person? Is it out of love or emotion? Next, read the Word to see what it says about the issue at hand; the Bible is full of the truth, not your own ideas or opinions. Third, ask God to help you speak well-seasoned words, words that won’t shame and condemn. “Love does not traffic in shame and disrespect, nor selfishly seek its own honor. Love is not easily irritated or quick to take offense (1st Corinthians 13:5 TPT).
In our culture, truth-telling is hard. No one wants to offend anyone else, but not to say anything is equivalent to spiritual malpractice. We should always speak about what the Bible says is true, even if it is uncomfortable or may hurt someone’s feelings. We should stop overlooking and ignoring and instead choose to speak the truth in love.