“Scripture doesn’t call us to balance grace and truth, it calls us to be full of both, not lacking in either.” -Brandon Hatmaker
I’ve noticed that often Christians feel that we have to make a choice whether we will show God’s love or stand firm in our beliefs. I’ve wondered it many times myself. If I disagree with another person, do I choose to be gracious and ignore our differences or do I stand for truth and make my beliefs clear?
But why does it have to be an either/or situation?
Compromising your beliefs isn’t an option. But we also can’t forget that we are commanded to love our neighbours. And just because we know something to be true does not absolve us of the responsibility for how we handle that truth. In other words, you can be right about what you are saying but wrong in how you are saying it.
This might seem obvious but many times it isn’t. In fact, I can’t even count the number of times I have heard someone say something in a horribly mean way and then claim that they are “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). There seems to be an assumption that because they are speaking truth to another person it is, therefore, a loving act. But if the truth is delivered in an unloving way then speaking what is true ceases to be loving.
First Corinthians 13:4-7 are popular bible verses that are often read at weddings. But they are far more than just pretty words: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres”
If you are speaking the truth but you are saying it rudely, unkindly, or in a way that dishonours someone else then according to 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 you are most definitely NOT “speaking the truth in love” because your manner is in contrast to the very essence of what love is.
Jesus did speak truth, as did Paul in his letters to the churches. But don’t forget that before any of those truths were spoken or written, relationships were established first. God became man and dwelt among us. Among us. He didn’t sit on His throne and condescend to us (which He had every right to do). Instead, He chose to become one of us and lead us to the truth that way. Paul, following Jesus’ example, rebuked the churches with whom he already had established relationships.
Another point to consider is that Jesus met other needs, not just the need for truth. Jesus healed people. He satisfied their physical thirst and their spiritual thirst. Truth was not spoken in the absence of love but within the full context of love.
Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6). Therefore, speaking the truth means pointing people towards Jesus himself. But we need to do that lovingly, as Jesus did. Not just throwing out words that we know to be true, but by showing our love toward others in the way we live everyday. Acting lovingly towards them always. Then, and only then, truth can then be spoken within the context of love.
The old saying about thinking before you speak is sound advice. I am not suggesting that we shouldn’t stand up for what we believe in or keep silent in the face of adversity. There is a time to speak and a time to be silent and I can’t write a prescription for what to say or not to say in every situation that may arise in your life or mine.
What I can say is that you should always examine your own heart for motives before you confront someone with the truth. Be sure that you are acting in a loving way. So that, “we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work” (Ephesians 4:15-16).
If we speak in love, then we grow and build up ourselves and others in love. What an incredible reward.
WHY DO YOU THINK IT’S IMPORTANT TO BE SURE THAT WE ARE ACTUALLY SPEAKING WITHIN THE FULL CONTEXT OF LOVE WHEN WE SPEAK TRUTH?