“It’s not what you say, but how you say it.” I am sure most of us have heard this before, and even spoken it to someone. And in some ways this saying is true. However, the Lord has been showing me a fault, a sin that I have in my heart, and how it affects me spiritually as well as those who I speak to. The Bible tells us that we are to “speak the truth in love”. (Ephesians 4:15) Sometimes that means we have to say things to people that will cause them to feel rebuke or reproof. But sometimes, instead of speaking the truth in love, we find ourselves sugar coating what needs to be said and this is the trap of insincerity that the Lord does not want us to fall into.
Paul writes to the Philippians and tells them that he prays for them. He tells them that he prays that their “love may abound more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ,” Philippians 1:9-10.
As I read these words today, I saw my sin fully. Sometimes, when I do not want to cause a problem, or hurt someone’s feelings, I will tell them what they want to hear, rather than what they need to hear. Like when you ask your husband if the outfit you are wearing makes you look fat, and he responds with “no, of course not”, but your muffin top is hanging out and you look like a beached whale. It is not until your sister comes up to you and says, “Sister, that outfit does not complement you” that you realize your husband was just being nice. Not only are you offended, but you are embarrassed as well. But instead of starting a war with you, your husband tells you what you want to hear. Too many times I think we fall into this trap, not only with others but in our own walks.
The Lord Jesus spoke the truth; He never minced words or watered down what we needed to hear. But He also did it in love. When you read the messages that the Lord Jesus gave to the churches in the book of Revelation, you will see His love first, than His rebuke, than His love and grace again. His words to us always come in love. Not to make us feel good about ourselves, but to correct our wrongs because He loves us and wants what is best for us. Our conversations with others should be modeled after His example.
When we see a sister or a brother in sin or stepping into a path we know is not for her benefit, should we not speak up? Paul writes in Philippians that we are to be “sincere and without offense”. Sincerity means “pure, unsullied” it is a freedom from falsehoods. It also refers to wine that is pure and not mixed with water. In Biblical times, they would sometimes water down the wine to make it more palatable and pleasing to drink. It was also a way to make your dollar stretch when having large feasts and banquets. They would offer a glass of wine to the guest, but instead of it being pure, it would be mixed with water, and those who drank it were being deceived.
The other day, I found myself being put on the spot. I didn't quite know what to say, and I knew that if I said the truth, this sister in the Lord would feel rebuke. So, instead of speaking the truth to her in love, I watered down my response. But this caused me to see that she was not benefited by my words at all, and she is still struggling with this sin in her life. We are called, as sisters and brothers in the Lord to encourage, lift up, rebuke and reprove those who are weaker in the faith. But, to avoid confrontation and to avoid our own selves looking like the bad guy, we water down our words and fall into insincerity.
We all need to hear the truth. I would much rather have my husband tell me “that looks awful” than walk into public looking like a beached whale. Paul is telling us as well as the Philippians that our words and our deeds need to be sincere when we are dealing with others. There is no love in watered down words. The Lord showed me that this is a form of lying, and we should not be taking part of it. When we do reform our words to make the hearer feel better, and not give them the truth in love, than we have fallen into the same trap of insincerity that Abraham did.
Abraham told Pharaoh that Sarah was his sister so that they would not kill him and take her from him. (Genesis 11:12-16) It was not completely a lie, but it was not the whole truth either. Sarah was Abraham’s sister, but she was also his wife. And he put her into a not so nice position just to save himself. I think we do that sometimes as well, at least, the Lord has shown me how I do this. Instead of speaking the truth in love towards my sisters, and saying those hard things to hear, I avoid the subject and dance around it; trying to justify in my own heart the lie that I just told them, was all in the spirit of love, of course. I rationalize that it was not a lie, but a softer way to answer. But, no matter how I try to justify it before the Lord, it was not truth and it was not done in love.
To speak the truth in love, we have to say hard things. We, as brothers and sisters in the Lord, are going to have to speak words of reproof and rebuke. We are going to have to speak things that will discipline, but we are also to show them grace. Just as Jesus did when speaking to the seven churches, He spoke love to the hearers, encouraged them in their faith, but also rebuked them for their faults. But in the end, He always poured out grace upon the hearers.
After I read and pondered on what the Lord was showing me today, I realized that too many times I water down what needs to be said so that I can save myself. This is not love for my sisters and brothers in the Lord; this is a selfish desire to keep myself from conflict. But the Lord Jesus calls us to a higher standard. He calls us to speak the truth in love, even when it hurts us and the hearers. But, He has also shown me that when we speak the truth in love, the hearer will be blessed and encouraged by it. Even though they may not see it at first, He will honor your sincerity and they will grow by it.
Speaking the truth in love means that we speak with knowledge and grace. We should always seek the Lord first before speaking to our sisters. We should always come before the Lord and work out our own salvation before we go and try to fix others. We should examine our hearts first, and let the Lord speak through us. It is His love we want others to see, and not our own selfish desires. Speak the truth, always and in every situation, without watered down words, but in love and in all sincerity. When we do this, we will all grow and be blessed in His Word. Amen and Amen.