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Speaking Truth in Love

I was asking a wise friend for advice about what to do in an awkward situation I had been put in.  Should I say something? (aka “speak truth in love.” aka speak my mind.)

Her: “Do you love them?”

Me: “Wow. No, I guess I don’t really truly love them.”

Her: “Then you should shut-up”

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.   If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.  If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhereSo, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love. (1 Cor 13:1-3)

Love is the precursor.  Love is the foundation.  Love is the essential element.  No good will come if love is missing.

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It’s become a commonly used phrase these days: “Speaking Truth in Love.”  But I feel like the people who say those words are often being more about speaking “the truth” and less about the “love” part.  The Bible is pretty clear about this: Love is the essential hallmark of God’s people.

This phrase “speaking truth in love” comes from Ephesians 4.  It’s part of a passage about the Body of Christ working together and growing into health, maturity and love.

He handed out gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher to train Christians in skilled servant work, working within Christ’s body, the church, until we’re all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God’s Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ. No prolonged infancies among us, please. We’ll not tolerate babes in the woods, small children who are an easy mark for impostors. God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love – like Christ in everything. We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do. He keeps us in step with each other. His very breath and blood flow through us, nourishing us so that we will grow up healthy in God, robust in love. The Old Way Has to Go   (Eph 4:11-16 Message)

I had the privilege of being on staff at my church for 9 years.  During that time I had the honor of working side by side with our senior pastor.  I learned many things from him.  And there is one that totally changed my life: His pursuit of God’s Love for people.  Our pastor and wife carry heavy burdens.  People’s lives are messy and pastors are looked to for all kinds of help.  Sometimes people treat them poorly and expect huge things from them.  For almost a decade, I watched our pastor agonize over each person and each situation.  I think most people would consider him to be “quick to speak.”  But I got to see the hours he took to pray and pray and pray before speaking to people.  What was he praying for?  Love.  He wouldn’t speak a word until he was fully in love with each person in the situation.  He begged God to open his eyes to see people who He sees them.  Sometimes I felt like things simmered for too long and I would beg him to intervene.  But he wouldn’t act or speak unless he had love.  This is one of my favorite things about our pastor.  And I think it’s one of the things hardly anyone knows about him.  How could they?  He would have to betray confidence in order for people to know how much he pauses to pursue God’s Love.

By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:25)

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God is a multi-tasker.  Or rather a multi-being.  He is Truth AND He is Love.  He is good AND He is righteous. He gives perfect Justice AND He gives full Mercy.  All at the same time.  All. At. The. Same. Time.

But we humans are little.  And isn’t it true that as we walk out our Faith, we sometimes lift some concepts higher above others?  Like when we are actually being more about “Speaking the Truth” and less about the “in Love” part.

This is why we need the empowering and indwelling Holy Spirit.  This is why we need to study God’s Word.  This is why we need to stop being products of our human cultures and totally be of His culture.  We need to whole-heartedly choose to pause to pursue God’s Love for each other.

Some people defend Loveless speech by saying that are a “truth-speaker.”   I totally relate.  I am someone who will call a spade and spade.  Truth is important to me.  BUT in God’s culture, Truth is bankrupt without Love. (1 Cor 13:3)

If we haven’t paused and begged God to fill us with His Love for the other person, we do not have His support to speak.

This week I happened to be on the receiving end.  I was spoken to by a person who did not love me.  It makes my stomach hurt.  I think we all need to do a study on what Godly Love actually is.  (Hello 1 Cor 13. I think I’m going to be diving into you and digging for a deeper understanding of Love.)

I know for sure I’ve also been on the giving end of “speaking truth” without love.  It’s easy for me to speak up when others don’t feel able.  I grab the bull by the horns.  But how many times have I taken the time to pause and be full of love?  It is time to aggressively add the art of “pausing for love” to my life.

May we all, the whole Body of Christ, embody the Love of God evermore.   Let’s be afraid of being bankrupt without love.  So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love. (1 Cor 13:3)

Want to read through the Bible with me? Today’s readings are Psalm 69; John 10:22-42

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