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Speaking the Truth in Love

By James Metsger 

Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth (1 John 3:18)

My kid was chasing a ball into a busy intersection the other day, cars speeding everywhere. I didn’t say anything. He had a smile on his face and seemed like he was having so much fun!

That didn’t happen. But if it did, you would question whether I should be allowed to have children in my care. 

That’s not love. Allowing a child to engage in risky behavior simply because he enjoys it is not loving. In the same way, sometimes love is speaking up even if our words won’t be well received in the moment. My friend Billy once told me, “If I ever find out that you know something about me that I need to hear, and you don’t tell me, I’d be crushed.” In other words, sometimes the most loving thing we can do is to speak the truth…in love (see Ephesians 4:15). 

Admittedly, it doesn’t always feel loving to tell the truth because sometimes it’s not. When it lacks the indispensable love element, truth-telling becomes vindictive and cruel. 

Like hydrogen peroxide on an open wound, even truth shared in love can sting. That’s why when I’m on the receiving end of words that make me wince, I assume there is at least some truth in what is being said. I may not agree with everything. I may not like everything. But I know a) I have blind spots and b) I’ve asked God to help me see them, even if it means a blow to my ego. 

Maturity in Christ involves the humility to receive truth spoken in love and the courage to deliver it compassionately. 

Like letting our kids traipse in the path of a Mack truck, it’s not loving to passively keep our mouths shut when we should open them. Our goal isn’t to be harmful, but to be helpful with our words: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29). 

Sadly, love is often defined as acceptance at all costs, but sometimes, if we truly love, we need to be truthful at all costs

Reflect: Do you need to have a truthful conversation with someone you love? When will you?