Ephesians 4:25 “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.”
Well, this verse is easy. Of course we should tell the truth. Of course we shouldn’t lie. It is one of the first things we learn, as children. Unfortunately, the acceptance of this truth is often easier than the application of this truth.
Just a few verses earlier (v. 15), Paul told us to speak the truth in love, for this is the only way that we will grow to be mature Christians. But we must always remember there are two parts to this process: a) speaking the truth, and b) speaking in love. We can’t speak the truth without love, or we will hurt and offend others. And we can’t be so “loving” and compassionate that the other person doesn’t hear the real truth.
There are some truths that don’t need to be spoken at all, for they will do nothing to build others up. For example, if I have a brand new dress, and you think the color is horrid on me, you really don’t need to tell me that. It will hurt my feelings and cause a rift in our friendship. But if you feel the dress is inappropriate or immodest, then you should seek a private way to lovingly, kindly tell me your concerns. Perhaps I haven’t really seen the view of the dress from all angles, or perhaps I simply haven’t learned the standards of modest dressing. By hearing your concerns spoken in a loving, gentle way, I may avoid making the same mistake in the future.
What if I have slipped into a nasty habit of gossip and slander? You may not feel comfortable discussing the issue with me. After all, you don’t want to make me angry with you. So instead, you just listen to my gossip. You roll your eyes when I leave the room, because my incessant slander is getting on your nerves. Eventually, you tell others, “Don’t listen to her. She gossips about everyone.” But still, to my face, you pretend that nothing is wrong. Eventually, we will both feel the strain, and our friendship will suffer. I will perhaps never know what I did to cause the strain. I will continue to gossip, you will continue to avoid me, and neither of us will benefit.
Friends, by speaking the truth to each other in a loving, gentle, compassionate way, we will build each other up. We will grow stronger as individuals, and the body of Christ will benefit. The truth, apart from love, is often harsh, and tears people down. Love, apart from the truth, gives a false impression of reality, and that is never for the best. But the truth, spoken in love, is beneficial to all.
Dear Father, Please give me the courage to speak the truth in love to those around me. And please help me to be humble and receptive when others need to do the same for me.
For more on this topic, read Vonda Skelton’s book, Seeing Through the Lies.