“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ, from Whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love” (Ephesians 4:15–16).
The context of this passage is that the church at Ephesus has been given believers with the gift of teaching. They are to equip the saints and strengthen them to not be tossed about by every wind of belief and doctrine that man has or will devise. In other words, the primary application of this text is for those who teach to do so in love as to build up the church in love and into Christ, who is love.
But there is an important secondary application for every believer here, regardless of giftedness in teaching: we must all be careful to speak truth in love.
There was a meeting in our county education system recently that announced a change in how certain payment would be handled. It was a legal change that was necessary by law. No one, from the higher ups announcing the change to the workers that it affected, could do anything about it. And it led to a heated debate. A couple moments were very uncomfortable.
‘Turn away wrath’
I was reminded that while some truth had been involved in the debate, there was a moment when love and mutual respect were no longer involved in the conversation. It changed and charged everything.
We’ve seen the same sort of thing take place as abortion “rights” have been debated as well. Please understand, I am firmly against abortion, but the body of evidence in God’s word doesn’t allow me to mistreat someone because they are wrong or offensive. In short, we must speak the truth, but our speaking cannot be absent or void of love. No matter what.
Proverbs says it like this:
“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1).
We can’t simply allow ourselves to ruffle feathers when important issues and lives are on the line. We want to enact change, right? Well, next time you are discussing a passionate topic, don’t forget to love the other person while seeking to convince them of the truth. In the same way that what we say matters, the way we say it also matters.
‘Steadfast love and faithfulness’
The next chapter in Proverbs says this:
“By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of the LORD one turns away from evil. When a man’s ways please the LORD, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him” (Proverbs 16:6–7).
An argument that has passion and truth may still lack the love of God. We are called to steadfast love and to fear the Lord. And then when the truth of God and love of God collide in the hearts of men, enemies dissolve and hearts are changed. That is how we should speak on the hard issues, because love is the vehicle by which truth changes hearts.