January 2, 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.
In December, I began a close study of a crucial phrase in Ephesians 4:15: “speaking the truth in love.” I suggested that, if we are to understand this phrase accurately, we need to consider several questions: What does it mean to speak the truth? Who does the speaking? What truth are we to speak? What does it mean to speak the truth in love? So far, we have seen that the emphasis upon speaking the truth underscores the power of the words we use, whether speaking, writing, texting, etc. Moreover, we, the people of God, are the ones who speak the truth that contributes to the growth of the body of Christ. This task is not reserved for the clergy. In fact, clergy are given the privilege and responsibility of equipping God’s people, the laity, so that they might speak the truth with accuracy and power (4:11-12).
Our next question is: What truth are we to speak?
I have often heard Christians answer this question in a particularly narrow way. They read “speaking the truth in love” as referring specifically to the act of admonishment. When a brother or sister persists in sin, then we need to speak the truth to them in love, confronting them about their behavior so that they might repent. Now, I think this kind of speaking the truth in love is vital to the health of the Christian community (see Matthew 18:15-20; Galatians 6:1-2). But I do not believe it gets at the heart of the meaning of “speaking the truth in love” in Ephesians 4:15.
Rather, the truth we are to speak in love is, fundamentally, the truth of the Gospel. It’s the truth that God is uniting all things in Christ. It’s the truth of God’s love in Jesus Christ. It’s the truth that we have been saved by grace through faith (2:8). It’s the truth that we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ for good works (2:10). It’s the truth that, through Christ, God has broken down the wall of hostility between people (2:14). It’s the truth that God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine (3:20). The Gospel in all of its implications is the truth that we all should speak to each other and to the world.
Now, let me be clear, I’m not suggesting that you need to walk up to strangers on the street and start talking about Jesus. This kind of evangelism may not be your calling. But I am suggesting that you and I need to learn to speak honestly, freely, and appropriately about God and his grace. We need to speak in ways that are motivated and shaped by God’s grace in Christ. We need to remind our brothers and sisters in Christ of God’s love when they are discouraged. We need to let the world know that God is healing the brokenness of creation and that they can participate in this work.
I’m also not recommending that you fill your speech with lots of “God talk” that rings of inauthenticity. This can actually keep us from growing in Christ and chase away those who aren’t yet believers. Rather, I believe we need to learn to talk about God in ways that fit who we are, who God is, and what our context is. We need to speak the truth that ought to be spoken, but not all of the truth at once.
In tomorrow’s Life for Leaders devotion, we’ll reflect a bit more on the truth we should speak. For now, let me encourage you to mull over the following questions.
Something to Think About:
Can you think of times in life when your speech has been influenced by the Gospel?
Can you think of a time when someone (besides your pastor) spoke to you in a way that helped you experience God’s grace?
In what ways and in what contexts do you find it acceptable or natural to share the truth of God’s love in Christ?
Something to Do:
Be aware of how you might speak the truth of the Gospel today. This may be as simple as reminding someone of God’s love. Or it could be communicating your care for someone as a reflection of God’s care for you.
Gracious God, you have entrusted to your people the high calling of speaking your truth to others. Help us to do this faithfully, honestly, and sensitively. Help us to know when to speak and when to remain silent. May we be unafraid to speak of you according to the truth of the Gospel. Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentary:
Truthtelling is the Norm in the Bible
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.