One way God has been at work in my life over the last 5-10 years is in the area of speaking the truth in love. I would much rather focus on the love part, which is good, except for the times when people need to hear truth about themselves and their situation. I struggle with getting to the truth part in what I think could be a difficult or confrontational conversation with someone. I struggled with this in disciplining my kids when they were little. I can struggle speaking truth with other family members, with friends, and with colleagues. Maybe you know the feeling. I’ve heard from people over the years who say they, too, can have a difficult time confronting people, or holding people accountable.
You might think, “But, Joel, sometimes your blog posts speak bold truth.” If you think that, you’re right, and it could seem like an inconsistency in me. How can I speak bold truth (hopefully also in love) online, but at the same time say that I struggle doing so in personal conversations? I’ll tell you why. When I am preaching, teaching, leading a meeting or writing blog posts, I do not see myself as talking to any one person. Instead, I see myself as talking to a group. That means my posts don’t feel personal or pointed. I intentionally craft my posts so that they are not calling out any one individual. Instead I hope and pray they are widely applicable to many people.
But I can’t escape the fact that Paul writes in Ephesians 4:15 that we Christians are people who speak the truth in love. Love and truth must go hand in hand. Some people are very good at speaking truth boldly, authoritatively. But those same people might have a hard time speaking truth in love. They speak truth, but they can do so in a way that hurts people. Consequently that hurt can make it very difficult for people to hear the truth. Speaking truth, therefore, is not automatically helpful. Others like me can struggle to get around to the truth part. When we don’t share the truth, we are actually withholding love. If we truly love people, we will be willing to speak truth with them, and we will do so in a loving way. So we need both truth and love.
I’m writing about speaking the truth in love because it is hard for me. This coming week on the blog we’ll be talking about doing hard things. I encourage you to take a look at the passage we’ll be studying: John 13:1-17. Jesus was the master of doing hard things, as is clearly demonstrated in this story. As you read the passage, ask God to speak to you through the biblical text and through the posts.
Photo by Kane Reinholdtsen on Unsplash