I’ve heard the scripture “speak the truth in love” often. Mostly when something hurtful, yet true needs to be spoken to another person. I’ve understood this to mean; say what you have to say, in a nice way, couch it and/or be gentle. But tonight I was listening to a Focus on the Family broadcast, the speaker was Dr. Muller who explained it this way: that speaking the truth, if it is truth is love, that got my attention.
The verse is not addressing the way we say something per se (though walking in love towards one another would also mean being kind and polite to others) but that loving someone is speaking the truth that they need to hear.
When I looked this verse up to put it in context I also discovered deeper meaning. In Ephesians chapter 4 Paul is speaking to believers about encouraging and teaching other believers. He states; “11And He Himself (Jesus) gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.”
Let me quote again, “that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— ” The reason Jesus gave each of us various gifts is to help each other continue to grow and to protect one another from being deceived by and entangled in this world and from our enemy until Jesus comes back for us. The way that we care for one another and help each other grow is to speak the truth to one another as God reveals it to us.
We have to be careful that we’re not going around “preaching” our beliefs to nonbelievers and calling it “speaking the truth in love.” This scripture is talking to believers speaking to other believers. John 8:32 tells us that “the truth shall make you free.” I believe the Word works whether you’re a christian or not. Matthew 5:45 says “ that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. Therefore, truth spoken to a believer as well as an unbeliever will do good. But going around telling everyone “like it is” because “this is the way we believe” will produce nothing but resentment and lots of people bitter at “Christians.”
Finally, truth can be very hard to tell, but if love is your motive, you’ll do the hard thing and speak the truth out of a heart of love for the other person. Because ultimately caring enough to speak truth to another person no matter what the outcome is a powerful show of love. If someone is sharing truth with you, you should also feel very loved, even when it’s painful. At least be willing to listen and to think the thing over when someone is confronting you with truth. If it’s done in the right spirit it’s being done out of love and concern for you. Sure, not everyone will be right 100% of the time so it’s important to examine the words spoken to you and not just accept everything people are confronting you with. But give it time, think it over, consult another person and see if there’s anything that needs to be changed or dealt with. We all miss it that’s where grace comes in.
Speak the truth in love or If you love someone speak the the truth.