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What does it mean to “speak the truth in love” & how can we do that?

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Fact of life: The #NoFilter trend does not suit our words.

We’ve all experienced the awkwardness that comes with too much being said in the name of “just being real”.  On one end of the spectrum, authenticity isn’t a license to say whatever, whenever, and however we want. On the other side, there are some “filters” that do just as much damage in our relationships: false motive, sugar-coating, the silent treatment, white lies and negativity to name a few.

So where’s the balance? What kind of filter do we need with our words?

Truth and love are those filters.

Speaking the truth in love is a practiced art. It’s rooted in authenticity and carries itself with grace.

Truth is life-giving. It’s like a precious vaccine, or that thing you just ordered on Amazon that is sure to make your life just that much better. Just as important as truth itself is the way that it’s packaged. Without the proper packaging, like a vaccine or that Amazon order, it can be received damaged, ineffective, or not at all.

Truth is usually needed in the hard moments. It’s the correction that comes with the girl you mentor who’s making decisions that don’t reflect God’s Word. It’s telling your roommate her outfit doesn’t match before she leaves the house. It’s having the hard conversation with your parents about not coming over for dinner as often as you used to instead of dodging their phone calls. It’s sitting down face-to-face with your significant other to talk about problem areas and have an honest conversation about how to make it better. Delivering truth can be a hard, painful, and scary thing.

Love is the package we deliver truth in. It isn’t a guarantee it will be received, but it sure does give it a better chance. At the core, having the right heart is so vital. If our heart isn’t for the other person or isn’t right with God, there is no way we can authentically have that truth-bringing conversation with the fullness of love and grace. However when our heart is in the right place, we develop an empathy to meet people right where they are, speak life-giving truth into their situation and allow God to work. Beginning in that moment, His Spirit works in an amazing way to melt away the hard layers of defense, break down walls of pride, and cast out shadows of shame. Whole, healing, empowering conversations and moments happen when we operate in true, authentic, love.

Sometimes we don’t see the fruit of speaking truth in love right away. In fact, in most of my experience, it takes time for people to really receive the heavier truths of life and allow change to take shape. That has to come within, and we have to trust God is at work, even when our job is said and done. He doesn’t ask us to make anything happen in our own strength. He merely holds us accountable to engaging in those hard conversations and truthful, honest moments as we are prompted in our Spirit. Our obedience sets the stage for His operation to take place. This is especially true in His design for His people, the Church.

“Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love… Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” Ephesians 4:15-16, 29b

We are called to speak the truth in love, in such a way that it brings unity and growth. It has a clear purpose to benefit and build up others. We keep it real to sharpen each other, encourage each other, and care for each other.

That doesn’t mean that you air everything about you, or beat around the bush to make people just feel good. Speaking truth in love looks like having a heart for people to become all that God has created them to be, engaging in the tough stuff in order to help them take steps in that direction, and operating out of the love Jesus modeled for us all throughout Scripture. Our authenticity, honesty, and boldness become coated in grace, empathy, compassion, and patience. And when that is rooted in truth, it has an exponential effect. When we’ve been shown love and led in truth, we can learn to lead and love others the same way.

What we say around here is “find your tribe, love them hard”. This is what it looks like. God’s desire for His people as a whole is to be healthy, growing, and full of love. And that stems from being committed, personally and together as a tribe, to speaking the truth in love.

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