“Sanctify them by the truth; Your Word is truth” (John 17:17).
Not only is truth its own powerful force, but apparently, it even has the power to change us in a sanctifying way. Ephesians 4:15 says that this process of speaking and hearing the truth is the means by which we are able to “grow up in all aspects…” becoming more like Jesus. This may be why truth is hard to hear and intimidating to express: it has the power to produce growth in both the speaker and the hearer. It serves as an opportunity to enter into the process of growing in love towards one another and towards Christ. But growth can be uncomfortable sometimes.
I have to admit I am squirming as I write, and I must admit, I have not done this well over the course of my life. I have been blunt, condescending, assuming, and judgmental too many times to count. It wasn’t until I learned this:
I think, too often, we automatically equate truth with judgement instead of allowing truth to simply be truth. Truth is not innately judgmental, nor is it compassionate. It is simply the truth. We must realize that it is our position – whether we are coming from a place of judgement or compassion – that dictates how truth affects speaker and hearer alike. In understanding this process of choosing a compassionate heart over judgment is the crux of both our ability to speak truth and to receive truth.
Speaking the truth in our relationships must be paired with something in order to be conveyed. “From the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks,” and our words will drip with the motive of our hearts. Pairing the truth with judgement is like using a fork to eat soup: we may eventually satiate hunger, but we are going to make a huge mess in the process. Additionally, using the truth to judge others is a dangerous weapon: “Like a thornbush brandished in a drunkard’s hand is a proverb in the mouth of a fool” (Prov 26:9). We wound others when we are judging them, even if it is truth we are speaking.
To speak the truth “in love” is not simply saying the truth politely. No, it is so much more than that. “Speaking the truth in love” is the act of being in a state of loving compassion towards another from deep within. It is from this loving position, alongside congruent living, that we speak truth, and compassion towards them negates our inclinations towards pridefully judging. “We make it our aim to be well-pleasing to Him” (2 Cor 5:9), and speaking the truth drenched with love, pleases the Lord.
If the bullseye is fixed on reaching a person’s heart, then we must aim accordingly: with truth and love. Like an
arrow’s shaft, the truth must be strong and straight, providing validity and trust. If the truth we bring is not truth, or is laced with assumptions, opinions, envy, or selfish motives, we tarnish its integrity, leading to untrustworthiness and eroding relational quality. The tip of our arrow must be sharp, or we accomplish nothing more than to bruise another and (in most cases) piss off more than a few people.
The point should be love. We lead with love. We share truth because we love, not because we are a judge.
This is worth meditating over and deeply searching our hearts. “Truth in love” is how the Lord Himself has saved us. God’s mercy in salvation has never been sugar-coated, not once. He has been truthful with us: there is a ransom, and it is more than we could ever pay. If it is not paid, we are destroyed. Christ paid it all, and therefore, “we have been bought with a price”. This is the “ministry of reconciliation” that has been committed to us by Christ (2 Cor. 5:19). And He has led the way in love, given us the truth, pierced our hearts, and has drawn us towards Himself. This is the message we proliferate when we walk in relationships with compassion and truth. We are living this “ministry of reconciliation” as a part of our testimony in front of a world that desperately needs to hear this message.