Friday, January 31, 2014

Speaking the Truth In Love

                A sister in the Lord and I were talking one day and she suggested that I write a blog about “speaking the truth in love”. Our discussion was based on whether or not we, as Christians, have the
responsibility or right to tell others about the sin that they are living in. We talked about the differences between “speaking the truth in love” and judging others. Sometimes, I think we cross the line. I know that in the past I have found myself judging a fellow sister or brother in the Lord, but I thought that I was speaking to them the truth in love. So, I went on a little expedition this morning and looked up the verse that referred to “speaking the truth in love.” This is what I uncovered, and this (I believe) is what the Lord has shown me.

  “but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head-Christ-“ Ephesians 4:15
                As you back up in this chapter, you will see that Paul is talking to the Ephesians’ church about the various gifts of the Spirit and how they are to be used. He writes in verse 11 that “He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,” (Ephesians 4:11-12) Paul says that gifts are given to the members of the body of Christ for three reasons. The first being for the equipping of the saints, the second being to do the work of ministry and lastly, to edify the rest of the body, and that through these gifts we are to grow up into all things.

                I believe we have taken these verses out of context and used “speaking the truth in love” as a justification to judge one another. When Paul writes that we are to speak the truth in love, he is referring to the gospel, the truth of Jesus Christ, the truth of God’s word which is given to all of us to grow us up in Him, and to bring us into the fullness and the unity of the body of Christ. Speaking the truth in love means that we tell people the truth of God’s word, and then we allow God to do the work. I think we have become the Holy Spirit in our churches. We try to “fix” people, instead of equipping them, encouraging them and edifying them.

                As I studied through the Bible and looked for what exactly speaking the truth in love meant I came across the words reprove and reproof. Yes, we should reprove one another, but we must do it in love. Love does not point the finger; love puts a finger on its mouth and lives before the person who is sinning, the life that Christ desires for us to live. The “speaking the truth in love” that Paul is referring to is to those who have believed false doctrines and have erred from the truth because of them. They are not your normal sisters and brothers in the Lord who fellowship with you, you are sitting next to you- they are those who have been tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine, they have been deceived by the trickery of men, and have been led astray. (Ephesians 4:14) And we, as His children are to speak to them the truth of God’s word to bring them back into the body of Christ where they belong.
                When I am thinking of someone who is caught in sin, and I want to say something, the Lord always brings these words back into my remembrance, “And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:3-5) When I see another brother or sister’s sin, it is because that sin is in me, and I need to go before the Lord and remove my plank. We see the sin of gossip in our sister, do we gossip? We cannot just assume that the sins we see in others are because we are “called” to help them remove them. We are not called to be the Holy Spirit in the lives of our brothers and sisters- we are called to build one another up, to be examples of Christ to them, we are called to encourage, edify and strengthen them. The Holy Spirit knows the sins that is in the hearts of each and every person on this earth- whether a believer or unbeliever. We are not the Holy Spirit, and I think we have allowed the “speaking the truth in love” to give us the justification we desire to judge one another.
                Now, am I saying that we should just turn our backs on sin and pretend that our brother or sister in the Lord is not in sin? No, but what I am saying is that before we go “speaking the truth in love” we need to take a step back, and get on our knees and seek the Lord first. If they are believers, if they have the Holy Spirit living in them, then God is already working in their hearts. We may not see it, we may not see any growth- but has God ever allowed you to stay in your sins? Or has He always convicted you, disciplined you, and then brought you out of them? Of course He has- because He loves us too much to leave us the way we are. And He loves that brother or sister in the Lord the same way.
                We are to speak the truth in love, speaking to them the word of God, allowing His Holy Spirit to do the work in them. Now, if they hear Him praise God, but if they do not hear Him that is between them- we have no part in this. If a brother or sister causes us offense, then yes, we should go to them and tell them, discuss the issue that we are having with them- but we must also do it in love. Love does not point the finger and make others feel like they are worthless or less of a Christian. Love encourages, it builds up, and it always draws that person closer to God. I believe we have taken what “speaking the truth in love” really means out of context and used it to point the finger onto others instead of to our ownselves where it belongs.
                If we truly want to see someone grow in the Lord, if we truly want to see a brother or sister come out of the sin they are living in, then we must take the time to get to know that person. Find out who they are, why this sin is in their life, and share with them our own personal struggles and how the Lord brought you out of it. When someone is drowning you don’t point the finger and tell them to swim- no, you dive in and you help them get back to shore. We should be doing the same, because that is what love would do.
               First and foremost, when we are feeling “called” to speak the truth in love to someone, we need to take a step back and fall on our knees before God. The sin we are seeing in that person’s life is because we have that sin too. My sins are not less than yours. The sin of fornication is no worse than the sin of gossip. Sin is sin; there is no scale from 1 to 10, one sin being worse than the other. My sin is just as bad as yours. Let’s not be the Holy Spirit, but instead let us be the body that He has called us to be- encouraging one another, loving one another, and not judging one another.

                Proverbs 10:12 says “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers a multitude of sins.” We are to be covering one another, in the bond of love, just as Christ covered us in His love.  So, when we want to speak the truth in love, I think we need to stop and check our hearts before we go running to that brother or sister in the Lord. The Lord will do a work in their heart, just as He will do a work in yours. How they react to His Holy Spirit is between the two of them- we really have no say in the matter. And that is my opinion. In Jesus Name, Amen and Amen.