“But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:” Ephesians 4:15
In this verse we see that the opposite of deception and craftiness is “truth in love”. I notice in this verse that it does not just say “truth” but “truth in love”. It is unfortunate that oftentimes as seasoned Christians we can become inpatient with young believers and become so intent on teaching and preaching truth that we fail to show Christian love. We fail to use the compassionate love that Christ used so often.
I grew up in a generation and in an area in the north where many sermons, particularly revival meetings, contained Biblical truth but were often yelled most of the way through the message. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the need and importance of inflection in public speaking but to yell a sermon does not come across to most people as love. In the Book of Acts we read of the Apostles proclaiming the Gospel to the crowds, and in Paul’s writings he writes with conviction and with power but his tone is a tone of compassion and love even in the midst of his chastening of the Believers.
Remember in the Scriptures where Christ threw out the money changers and called them a den of thieves? Christ was speaking to those who were already against Him. His response to their actions was effective because it was not his normal demeanor with them. I don’t recall anywhere in the Scriptures where Christ spoke harshly to those He was trying to teach. Christ spent a lot of time with His disciples and no doubt there were times when He had to be firm and very direct, but even then it was apparent that He loved them. In observing Christ’s conduct, who is our ultimate role model for communications, I see two things:
- Love’s foundation is based in truth.
- Christ’s message was always heard by the hearer (truth without love is seldom heard)
I have often thought back over the years and contemplated something that I saw far too often. I saw time and time again preacher’s and missionary’s children (as well as other children) walking away from the faith they grew up in. In seeing this occur, I have come to several conclusions. First, the Scriptures are clear that we as individuals, regardless of our upbringing, choose for ourselves the straight and narrow road or the broad highway. No child can live out their parent’s faith. It must be personal. Many loving and caring Christian parents have done all they can to train up their children in the way they should go only to have a son or a daughter reject the truth of God’s Word. The choice to turn away from God is always an individual decision. The second conclusion that I have come to based only from an outsider’s view but seeing it often, is that many times these children lived in homes where truth is made know firmly, very firmly, with what appears to be an absence of Christ’s love with the communication of these truths. Often times in our zeal to teach and communicate truth we fail to include the ever so important ingredient of love.
One of my struggles over the years has been with patience, particularly on occasions when I think the individual either should have gotten the message the first time or I think they are callous to the issue. In these occasions I would typically walk away and stew about the situation that just occurred. I must realize that in these moments I must question my motives. Am I trying to communicate truth in Christian love or is my anger due to my own selfishness? What is it that is angering me?
Jonathan Edwards had this to say about anger:
“We should never be angry but at sin, and this should always be that which we oppose in our anger. And when our spirits are stirred to oppose this evil, it should be as sin, or chiefly as it is against God. If there be no sin and no fault, then we have no cause to be angry; and if there be a fault or sin, then it is infinitely worse as against God than it is as against us, and therefore it requires the most opposition on that account. Persons sin in their anger when they are selfish in it; for we are not to act as if we were our own, or for ourselves simply, since we belong to God, and not to ourselves. When a fault is committed wherein God is sinned against, and persons are injured by it, they should be chiefly concerned, and their spirits chiefly moved against it, because it is against God; for they should be more solicitous for God’s honor than for their own temporal interests.” (The Spirit of Love the Opposite of An Angry or Wrathful Spirit, 1 Corinthians 13:5)
Is my motive to teach them or to get my way? When it is my goal to communicate a principle or concept, particularly biblical ones, is my communication done in Christ-like love or in harshness? When as a parent it is my duty to disciple a child, is it done in love or in anger? One way to know this is; do your children fear you when they have done wrong or do they fear the consequences of their sin?
When we are teaching or preaching or even disciplining young believers, are we communicating truth in a way that they are motivated by fear or love and compassion? Yes, there may be a time for “tough love” but being tough is only effective when the love is evident.
I’m reminded of a saying I heard many years ago, “I can’t do anything about it if you dislike me because of my position, but I can do something about it if you dislike me because of my disposition.”