‘So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
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.’ [Ephesians 4.11-16]
that is a rather long passage, but i do generally like to give context for a verse i want to use and i felt like this whole passage sums up this part of the message that i want to take from the anonymous email i received a week ago.
so this is the portion of the email i am going to be looking at now:
‘Brett-boy, you need to rethink how you spend your energy.
And here I’m speaking in particular about the humor side of your energy. To take an example: Brett, let’s be honest: your youtube videos suck. Big time. And I don’t even see the purpose in it. Will you really stand before the Jesus one day and when He asks you “So how did you spend your valuable time?” answer “Well, there are these youtube videos I made.”’
this is both a simple concept and a difficult one to get right [perhaps these are all so easy for me to blog about as i have lots of experience in the getting-it-wrong department in days gone by] but the idea mentioned in the Ephesians passage is of ‘speaking the truth in love’ with the intended purpose being that ‘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.’
this point seems to almost precede the point of the message. a question one needs to ask when challenging someone else about something is, ‘Am I right? Is this thing, that I am about to speak to that person, the Truth?’ Once I have ascertained that I am speaking Truth to them, it seems to be so very important that I get the ‘in Love’ part of the delivery of my message right, otherwise to some extent the Truth is invalidated. Was it Truthful? Yes. Did I speak it in Love? No, well then the whole message is lost!
Why is this so important? Well Jesus has set it out for us so clearly: When asked what the greatest commandment in the law is, ‘Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” [Matthew 22.37-40]
so the end point is always Love. and until i can get that part right, then it might be better for me to hold my tongue. the Ephesians passage reminds us that the intended consequence of speaking the Truth in Love is that the whole body will be built up and so that each person will be able to do the job required of them. this is vital, crucial stuff here.
i really believe that one of the largest travesties of the church for so long has been that those who ‘get the Truth’ and speak it, so often don’t have the Love to accompany it, and so much damage is done. but it goes further than that because i also strongly believe that too often those who ‘get the Love’ part of the Gospel, so often refrain from speaking the Truth. and damage is done both ways. we confuse ‘being Love-filled’ with not challenging people or confronting sin when it needs to happen [but in Love]. we mistake ‘being nice’ with ‘being Loving’ and that too can have terrible consequences.
BRINGING IT BACK TO WHAT IT’S ABOUT
so if my anonymous friend was wanting to do a better thing, how could that have happened?
to me, ‘Brett-boy’ sounds very condescending – that might not have been intended, but simply using ‘Brett’ would have done the trick.
‘let’s be honest – your videos suck’ could have perhaps been a more personal ‘i must be honest, i don’t really think your videos are all that great’ which at least removes some of the sting and personalises the opinion instead of proclaiming a statement of truth.
and i have already spoken a little bit into ‘And I don’t even see the purpose in it’ which could have been posted as a question such as,’I’d be interested to hear the reason behind why you make these videos?’
are any of these hugely malicious things? not at all – but out there in the world, and sadly too often in the church, there are examples that happen all the time that are way more hurtful and display a complete lack of Love and it is those that i am wanting to speak into.
the writer to the Corinthians didn’t seem to think Truth counted all that much [or anything else for that matter] if Love was not a huge part of the message both in word and deed:
‘If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.’ [1 Corinthians 13.1-3]
having hard Truth spoken to you in Love doesn’t always mean it is easy to hear. but it definitely becomes a lot easier to hear and if i walk away from you completely convinced that you Love me, then i am so much more likely to take some more time in considering the words of Truth you have spoken to me, even if i did not receive them well in the moment.
what’s your experience been in hearing hard Truth from people spoken in Love?
and i suppose the more painful question of, is this ringing any bell for you of times when you may have spoken well-meaning Truth but with a lack of the much-needed Love?