Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. (Ephesians 4:15 NIV)
It seems that many Christians have a hard time expressing the truth to another brother or sister when it is desperately needed for their own good. After all, unsolicited advice is usually unwelcomed. So, how do we grow as Christians to the place where we can speak the truth in love, bringing healing and health to the soul of another person? What skill needs to be acquired?
The art of "speaking the truth in love" requires "on the job training." That is the only way to learn how to do it, and God Himself is the only One who can teach you. If you have never had words of correction spoken to you by the Lord, how will you ever know God's ways when it comes to speaking the truth in love? The only expertise you need is divine correction through the voice of the Holy Spirit... I mean the kind that brings you to repentance and contrition. When that happens, you're on your way to learning "the skill."
Because God IS love and God IS truth, His words and voice are devoid of all carnal add-ons like selfishness, harshness, sarcasm, ignorance, pride, arrogance, and condescension. God says what needs to be said. God says it clearly and succinctly, and He says it directly to you. When God speaks, He gets maximum impact with minimal words. Think of Nathan approaching David. The profound impact of four words left David wrecked before God: "You are the man!" Or Jesus, beyond His resurrection, sitting on the beach with Peter and, again, using only four words to drill down into his heart: "Do you love me?"
Once, when I was praying Psalm 139 God taught me with His truth-filled, love-laced voice. I prayed: "Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting."
(Psalms 139:23-24 NKJV) I concluded my prayer with a question: "Lord, when you search me, what do you find?" The voice of God spoke four words: "You don't trust Me." I replied, "Lord, how can You say that? I'm going to do what you ask." (You see, I was going to preach a very difficult message full of difficult truth in a couple days... but it had me very anxious and nervous.) God replied, "You are obedient, but your anxiety reveals a lack of trust." Here's the amazing thing, when God speaks difficult truth, you know that it comes from a heart of love, not harm. It comes from a desire to build your character, not wound your spirit. It comes full of opportunity to heal, not to shame. God knows how to do this!
How many experts we have in the Christian world today who have never learned at the voice of the Master?! You can spot them a mile away. They have all of the advice, but only to put a person in their place. Lord God, open our ears to hear Your voice and learn Your beautiful ways! Help us to handle one another as you handle us! Help us to speak four powerful and loving, truthful words rather than excessive advice.
Brett Heintzman is passionate about the spiritual formation of God's people. These writings are designed to draw us close to God and to help us live out of the riches of His presence. It's all about being in the world but not of the world.