Speaking the truth . . . in love

Mark G. Schroeder

Some would say that being “politically correct” is simply taking care that your words do not needlessly offend people whose political, social, or religious views differ from yours. Others, however, would say that insistence on political correctness threatens free speech and silences those who disagree with the “correct” views promoted by those who want to shape the culture.

The apostle James certainly knew that words can hurt and do damage. “The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. . . . It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:6,8). Words can destroy trust. Words can be used to belittle a spouse. Words can destroy friendships. Words can dishonor parents. Words can distort the truth and lead people to believe a lie. Words can give life and energy to vile and wicked ideas. Words can entice and tempt others to sin.

You might think that since words have so much potential to do harm, the less said the better. But words can also accomplish amazing good. With words we express our love to one another. With words we teach our children values and morals. With words we comfort those who are sad and share in the joy of those who are celebrating. With words we pray and sing praises to God. With words we admonish brothers and sisters who are caught up in sinful behavior. Most of all, it is with words that we can share with others the beautiful truths that God has revealed to us in the Scriptures.

Yes, God wants us to speak. But he is also very clear how he wants us to speak. Paul encouraged the Ephesians to speak the truth. And he went further, saying that we are to speak the truth in love.

There are times when speaking the truth in love is not easy—when frightened silence seems to be the path of least resistance. What do you say when your coworker makes it clear that living with his girlfriend outside of marriage is perfectly normal? How will you warn your friend when you know that he regularly views pornography on his computer? What words do you use when your college roommate argues that every woman should have the right to have an abortion? Should you speak up when your neighbor accuses people who are not in favor of same-sex marriage of being closed-minded, bigoted, and homophobic?

When God gives us the opportunity to express our beliefs—and he will—we need to be ready. We need to be ready to speak the truth. But we also need to be ready to speak the truth not with words that mock or belittle or boast. Rather we need to speak the truth in love—out of love for the truth and with a loving attitude toward the person who hears us.

Even when we speak the truth in love people will not always respond well. Sometimes the truth—even when spoken in love—is not what people want to hear. We will often be condemned for our efforts. We will be accused of being judgmental. We may lose friends and suffer ridicule in return. When we speak as a synod, other church bodies will accuse us of being legalistic, clinging to old-fashioned and outmoded beliefs, or just plain wrong.

But that should not deter us. When the truth needs to be spoken, we need to speak it. And we need to speak it without fear, without apology, and always in love.

 

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Author: Mark G. Schroeder
Volume 102, Number 12
Issue: December 2015

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