January 10, 2019 • Life for Leaders
Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
According to Ephesians 4:15, it is through “speaking the truth in love” that we will grow up as Christians. In recent reflections, we have seen that “in love” means, in part, that we speak the truth for the benefit of others. We seek to serve people through our speaking, to love them as Christ has loved us.
But there is another dimension to “in love” that we might easily overlook. For Paul, love is not an abstract concept, an ideal, or a feeling. It is a fact of God’s own nature. It is an experience of God through Jesus Christ. And, crucially, it is a defining characteristic of Christian community. I would suggest that “speaking the truth in love” might be paraphrased, “speaking the truth in the context of loving Christian community.”
This interpretation fits what we see elsewhere in Ephesians 4. In verse 2 we read: “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” Love is an expression of redeemed people in action. It stands at the center of the unified body of Christ. Similarly, as we’ll see a little later on in our devotional amble through Ephesians, the body of Christ grows and “builds itself up in love, as each part does its work” (4:16). Love is the lifeblood of the body of Christ, that which enables it to mature.
When Paul mentions “speaking the truth in love,” he isn’t envisioning a lone Christian saying something kind. Rather, he pictures the people of God as a unified body, a body that exists because of love, is nurtured by love, and grows up through the exercise of love.
Practically speaking, this means that if you and I wish to speak the truth in love, then we need to be deeply connected to the body of Christ. This sort of connection doesn’t happen in the abstract. It isn’t enough to have lots of Christian “friends” on Facebook or to attend your church’s worship services. We will experience loving Christian community only in the context of genuine community with a local body of believers.
Something to Think About:
Are you connected to the body of Christ through a local body of believers, a place where people strive to speak the truth in love?
How does genuine loving community make possible the speaking of the truth?
In what ways do you speak the truth in the context of your Christian community?
Something to Do:
If you are not significantly engaged with some form of Christian community (fellowship group, small group, prayer partnership, spiritual direction, mission team, etc.), take some time to think about your priorities. Is there something you might do to take a step in the direction of more genuine Christian fellowship?
Gracious God, as we seek to speak the truth in love, may we do so in community with our fellow members of your body. And may our fellowship be shaped and nurtured by your love, such that our love reflects the very Gospel of Jesus Christ. As we love, help us to speak the truth to each other and to our neighbors.
Help me, Lord, to be lovingly committed to your body, so that I might hear the truth and tell the truth in love. Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentary:
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Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.