by Leigh Ann Dilley on February 10, 2021
Did you know we are in pursuit of the Holy Spirit this year? We discussed the fruit of the Spirit last week and what it looks like to live in hope. This week is about speaking truth with love. Because if we allow ourselves to be led by the Holy Spirit, then our lives, including our attitudes and behaviors should look very different from that of the world. For example, we speak kindly, give wise advice and show mercy because of the love we have for Christ and others. Part of loving others well involves knowing how and when to speak truth, but because of our humanness, it’s not always easy. So, how do we do this?
Let’s begin with the end in mind and ask ourselves some questions. Where does truth come from? Why is it important to speak the truth in love? What is the goal of speaking truth? What should motivate us to speak? These are important questions to consider because people need to hear biblical truths and the truth of Jesus. It’s also important because as our world grows darker, we as Christians, will be called to speak truth more often.
Where does truth come from? Jesus says: I am the way, the truth, and the life. Jesus calls the Holy Spirit the Spirit of Truth. If you received a message or a thought, did you pray and test “the truth” to ensure you received the truth from the Holy Spirit? Can you attach this truth back to a biblical truth or principle? If not, please examine the truth more closely. It may be a message just for you, more of an opinion really, or possibly, a judgement.
Why is it important to speak the truth in love? What is the goal of speaking truth? Let’s examine Paul’s letter to the Ephesians for guidance; specifically, Chapter 4. Paul is teaching the church on how to work together in a unified manner. He mentions the goal in Ephesians 4:16: He (the Lord) makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does it’s own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love. The goals seem to be: maintain healthy relationships and help people we love grow and mature in faith. As believers, each one of us has been given talents and gifts from God and we have a role to play using those talents and gifts. To be successful as a body, we need to depend on everybody doing their part and sharing their gifts. In other words, we need accountability.
If you prayed for insight and received insight, or truth, as a result of prayer, then you are ready to consider the next set of questions concerning the motivation to speak. Will this truth help someone grow or mature in faith? Does the truth have something to do with accountability or responsibility to the body as a whole? Do you have some sort of relationship with the person/people who need to hear the truth? Will the truth create unity? If not, perhaps “your truth” is not be ready to share.
However, if your motivation checks out and you are sure the truth came from the spirit, how should these words be said? What should presentation be like? Ephesians 4:2: Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. This is great advice to unpack when considering words as well as tone and attitude! It appears Paul left out the part about speaking while you are angry, defensive, or demanding. I also didn’t see anything about casting personal judgement on someone or causing them shame. In fact, at the end of chapter 4, vs. 31 -32 Paul say to get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, hash words and slander as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other tender-hearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. Once again, it would seem if we do not have a handle on our attitudes, emotions, and motivations; it may not be time to speak.
Speaking the truth in love can feel scary. There is so much to consider but much to gain if spiritually generated. Simply put: Pray, listen, test everything through God’s word, and obey.