One of the Most Urgent Biblical Commands for Our Day

To speak truth in love means taking the time to know other people and to understand them. It means taking the time to know where they are at in their lives and in their spiritual maturity. It means taking the time to ask good questions, to listen carefully, and to prayerfully consider the right truth for the right time.

One of the most urgent biblical commands for our day—and perhaps for any day—is to speak the truth in love. Different people at different times tend to overemphasize one of the two factors and underemphasize the other so that some lean away from truth while others lean away from love. But the Lord expects that we will do both without competition or contradiction. “Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way…” he says (4:15). This verse tells us that there is a thing we must do and a way we must do it. There is both an action and an attitude.

The thing we must do is speak truth, or maybe a little sharper, we must confess truth. Paul has just written about “the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God,” and this tells us that what we need to confess is what is true about Christ. He—his person, his work, his gospel—is to be the content of our speech, of our confession. We need to know it, believe it, guard it, and speak it to each other.

The way we must do it is in love, which means we need to acknowledge that truth can be spoken well or badly. We can confess what’s true, yet in a way that brings harm instead of blessing. We can say what is true, yet still sin as we say it. And so our calling is to speak truth in love or, to turn it around, to lovingly speak what is true.

As is so often the case in the Christian life, there is peril on both sides. On one side we can be all about the truth, but cruel and unkind. We can derive joy from fighting and busting others down. On the other side, we can be all about love, but spineless and weak.

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