“Speaking the truth in love” is an interesting phrase. Many argue that if one is speaking the truth they are being loving, no matter how they say it. At first blush this almost sounds right because truth brings freedom (John 8:32) and people need to know the Truth to be set free. But, if you consider 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, where we see that we can have the kind of faith that moves mountains but have not love, and, the end result is that such faith is vanity and worth nothing. And, this doesn’t even begin to touch on all the other scriptures that talk about being a peacemaker, loving one another, bearing with one another, not arguing with one another, doing everything one can to keep unity in Christ, being kind to one another, being gentle, turning the other cheek, being one who is willing to lay down one’s reputation for the cross, etc.
I think the problem really is speaking the truth but not doing the truth. When we only speak the truth, but we do not act it out, then we are failing. We are only speaking the truth with our tongues, but we aren’t doing so “in love.” We can’t just preach Jesus and not be Jesus. We are called to be His ambassadors. That means that we must live our entire lives dying to save others. Anything less isn’t truth at all.
If that means selling all we have and giving it to the poor, then we must do it. If that means going to Uganda to care for AIDS victims, then we must do it. We must be willing to do whatever God asks of us wholeheartedly. He demands justice for the poor, the needy, the widow, and the orphan. And Jesus set the example with His life. When we live as He did we need to say very little except that we are doing this because we are following Jesus and the way of the cross – people will understand by our lives.
Speaking the truth “in love” means standing firm in our conviction that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and that no man comes to the Father except through Jesus, while at the same time living just as Jesus did.
I remember when I was in my teen years in the 80s. I was a “super Christian” in my mind. I was one of those who always went to church. I memorized tons of scripture. I took every class the pastor taught in Training Union. I learned and learned. I was hungry for God. I read through the bible a number of times. But it was all an end in itself. As a result it was meaningless.
And then I heard Steve Camp singing this song:
Have we failed again, talking about the love of God
But judging those who need it most
All these afflicted ones, I feel their lives just fade away
Left to face the end alone
So we say a prayer for their needs
Afraid to touch, to hurt, to bleed
Do you feel their pain, has it touched your life
Can you taste the salt in the tears they cry
Will you love them more than the hate that’s been
Will you love them back to life again?
We should feel ashamed, allowing fear to close our minds
These are lives we can’t ignore
Oh, don’t turn away, will you see Jesus in each of them
These are souls He suffered for
There is hope for them, open up your heart
There is grace for them, do you think we’ve gone too far?
The song was about AIDS victims and the Church was failing to minister to them because of fear and prejudice. Remember, AIDS was a new epidemic then. And it was feared greatly.
The line about tasting their tears shook me to the bone. But I saw, for the very first time, what the “in love” part of speaking the truth in love meant. Yes, we must speak the truth, but if we aren’t being the Truth, true ambassadors of Jesus, living as He did for the lost and dying, then we are nothing. We become like the Israelites that Amos and other prophets cried out against, people who talk a good talk but who sell out the poor for a new pair of Borns. Knowing truth is never an end in itself. It isn’t truth at all if it isn’t known and done. In fact, one can’t truly know the Truth and not live it out.