This post could be titled Speak the Truth in Love: What you say and how you say it. Do you not appreciate the way God took care of our most destructive body member, the tongue? He told us what to say and how to say it. In danger of sounding like a broken record, this points beautifully to Scripture. His Word is full of Truth, what we are to say, and His Word works in us a heart which will speak Truth in a loving way. Praise God He did not leave me to develop my own truth, or rely on my own kindness when communicating! It is no wonder Ephesians 4:15 is so often quoted amongst believers, then!
In these Christian circles, though, I hear a rumor buzzing around about this phrase, "Speak the truth in love." Apparently, some people have no qualms about proclaiming black-and-whites while others more timid master the Love part of Paul's exhortation. Yes, I agree - in part. For example, I could name a few people around here who are really talented at pounding Truth, Truth, Truth! while certain others in my family - I mean, ahem, acquaintance - are really talented in tenderness. And it comes naturally to them! But I do not think the line should be drawn too sharply. Anyone who knows the Truth and dwells on it will consequently be loving. Anyone who truly loves a person will bless them with Truth. Do you see where I am going with this? Truth and Love are not mutually exclusive, but inseparable. They truly love each other...
Now that we have eschewed any excuses about not speaking the Truth in Love, we may turn our attention to actually doing so. Pop quiz: In what context does this commandment usually appear? Bingo! Confrontation. The scenario is set up like this: You have a dear friend, and he/she is not behaving properly. It is a habit. You notice, but stress over alerting him/her about it. What if he/she never speaks to me again? You ask a wise, old Christian about a "hypothetical" situation and, voila, he answers with, "Speak the truth in love." Thank you so much for that sage advice, but what is Loving Truth? Here is where this post comes in, I hope.
Truth can be found only in Scripture, and it is alive to all situations. There is no circumstance on which it is silent. It is replete with principles which should be applied to all practices. You may find principles and practices elsewhere, like "steps to painless and effective dialogue with ingratiates" or "what my mother said about boys" (examples), which is all well and good, but it must be checked with Scripture, it ought to be based on Scripture. Please be leery of any other guidelines, and certainly do not found your speech of Truth in Love on them! Knowing how to apply Biblical principles is obtained solely through reading and meditating on His Word, seeking help from those ahead of us in the Christian walk, and thereby cultivating a garden of truths in your soul.
Another thing about Truth is that it is not hard, it is not a blow, it is not heartless. I think many of us who were raised in a Peace, Love, and Save the Seals mentality were taught that any objective which is contrary to the other person is bad, as if Truth were some iron-fisted tyrant set on ruining people's daydream lives. We now distance ourselves from Truth, seeing it as heroic to be mouse-hearted rather than lion-hearted. It is time we were done with that soft ideology, do you not agree? It certainly gets us nowhere. I conclude it is more heroic to be truthful, in love, than apathetic, in selfishness.
Love, now, Love is Truth's mate. They come from the same place (guess): Scripture! God's Holy Spirit takes Christians' hearts and rips them apart to place God's Love there. This Love flourishes under Scripture's purifying words, it matures under Scripture's tutelage, it strengthens under Scripture's holy bonds. So, Love is best and purest when it is with Truth. In fact, Love without Truth is twisted and misplaced. What is Love, though? That is much too complex and loaded a question for me to answer in full, but I think, in this context, a good working definition goes along these lines, "Love for another person is a true desire for, and good action towards, the best for the other person, without regard to one's own ease. Simply, it is striving for God's glory to shine through that person." That makes it a rather easy question whether we should Biblically confront someone, right? It would be the most loving thing to bring that friend, maybe that spouse for you married folks, to a knowledge of Biblical Truth and offer to aid them towards Biblical behaviour. So, "in love" means speaking Truth in a convincing, firm, tender, caring, compassionate yet not permissive manner. Capisce?
For a Fair Lady in training, speaking the Truth in Love is a very important art to master. We will need to, as a wife, encourage our husbands and Biblically give our opinion. We will definitely need to, as a mother, drop jewels of Truth to our children every day. And even if we are not wed, we will need to be Titus 2 women, helping other women in the flock with truthful words all the time! If you need more ideas as to where you can speak the Truth in Love, just keep your eyes open. Opportunities always pop up.
Speaking of which, confrontation is not the only place to speak the Truth in Love. What if my Mumsie was truly and especially kind yesterday? Would it not be a loving thing to alert her to that truth? Or if your brother truly did take out the trash without being asked? It would be a very Fair Lady/Encourage Hero type of action to cheer him for that. Why speaking the Truth in Love was limited to confrontation is beyond me. Go speak the Truth in Love to someone and compliment them!
One last random, almost unrelated note. I was not even going to mention it, but....hey, it is my blog and supper can wait. Fair Ladies in Word are becoming increasingly rare. Not just in Truth and Love, either. I am talking about pure and simple English grammar and diction. In Letters to a Daughter on Practical Subjects, William Sprague urges his daughter to write letters and keep up good conversation to improve her language artistry. It is a useful tool for the Kingdom when everyone else is sinking lower and lower into the mire of "I don't care what people think, let me just be who I am and say what I gotta say." Come on, people! Let us set a good example and also save the English language! Okay, so "okay" is not even really a word, and slang can be quite effective. Even the founding fathers used contractions. I know, and I am fine with that. But you do understand my point, right? Maybe we can, from now on, intelligently speak the Truth in Love.
And that is that.