I think I’ve been guilty of using a Bible verse out of context for some time now.
For years in marriage conferences, and in a wide variety of other settings, I have referenced Ephesians 4:15 as a biblical admonition that ought to guide our interpersonal communication. “The Bible tells us,” I have said “to ‘speak the truth in love’ to one another.”
Indeed, that’s what Ephesians 4:15 says. And I’ve used that verse to try to help husbands and wives see that we often fall short in how we communicate with each other by either not telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, or by not expressing what we need to say carefully and compassionately. I’ve pointed out that some of us are good at speaking the truth, but not so good at doing it in love. Others of us can be so gentle, so kind and so sensitive in how we communicate that we tend to shade the truth in order to keep from hurting our spouse.
I think the idea that both truth and love should be fully present as we seek to communicate with each other in marriage is a biblical idea. Jesus, John tells us, was “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). And we should be as well. And in Colossians 3, Paul tells us clearly “Do not lie to one another.” (Colossians 3:9). And a few paragraphs later, he adds “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Colossians 4:6).
So, in marriage or in any conversation with a family member or a friend, our communication should always be characterized by truth and grace. We should be passionately committed to both objectives.
But the context of Ephesian 4 is not marital communication, or chats with friends, or even political discourse. When Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:15 is that we are to speak the truth in love, I believe he has something very different in mind.
Paul begins Ephesians 4 explaining that in light of all God has done for us in Christ, we should be people who seek to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling” to which we have been called. Paul could not have conceived of someone embracing the truth of the gospel without that belief leading to a radical transformation in how that person lived his or her life. Paul’s own belief in Jesus turned his life upside down. For him, every true child of God will experience a spirit-generated motivated to walk worthy of his or her calling.
He goes on in chapter 4 to talk about the priority of unity in the local church (Ephesians 4:3-6), the proper function of spiritual gifts in the church (Ephesians 4:7-11) and the central objective of the local church – “to equip the saints for the work of service” so that we all continue to grow in our understanding of Jesus and the gospel and in our personal spiritual maturity (Ephesians 4:12-13).
At this point in his letter, Paul warns these young believers to be careful that they do not find themselves “tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Ephesians 4:14). Paul knew that there would be people both inside and outside the church who would attempt to derail their spiritual progress. He was aware of the reality of spiritual warfare, which he would address later in this same letter (Ephesians 6:10-18). He wanted to alert these believers to be on guard against those who would seek to wreck them spiritually.
But just how do we keep from being spiritually unstable people who are fighting for our footing in the middle of a cultural windstorm? We do it, Paul says, by “speaking the truth in love” to one another.
In the past as I’ve encouraged people to speak the truth in love to each other, what I’ve had in mind has been a subjective kind of truth telling. I’ve used the verse to support the idea that husbands and wives should be boldly honest and not shy away from saying hard things to each other. I still believe that principle is true. In a healthy marriage, couples learn how to be truth tellers. They know they can offer their perspective on their relationship without fear, knowing that the “truth” they are sharing is being offered in love and will be received with love.
But when Paul tells the Ephesians to speak the truth in love to one another, the truth he has in mind is not subjective. It’s the objective truth about Jesus and the gospel. Paul is calling for the regular, repeated, bold and loving proclamation in the church of what’s true about God, what’s true about each one of us, what is true about our need for a Savior and what is true about God’s provision for our deepest spiritual need. It is this regular, loving declaration of gospel truth that will cause each of us “to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.” (Ephesians 4:15).
I intend to continue telling couples that bold honesty in marriage, presented in a way that demonstrates that we actually have the other person’s best interest at heart is a healthy and necessary practice. I may even use the language of Ephesians 4:15 as I encourage couples to speak the truth in love. But going forward, I’ll do my best to avoid citing the verse and suggesting that Ephesians 4:15 teaches us that we should speak the truth in love to each other – unless the truth I have in mind is the truth of the gospel that alone can keep us from being spiritually unstable people.
- Oct 2, Fri, 6:30-8:30pm |Big Maumelle Pavilion on Pinnacle Mountain; Bible study led by Courtney Reissig, author of Teach Me to Feel.
- Oct 3, Sat, 10am | Zoom Connection | Hear testimonies from RCC ladies Cindy Fulenwider and Carmen McBride & participate in breakout sessions.
- Oct 3, Sat, Noon | Patio Lunch at Tazikis, 12800 Chenal Parkway
Back last spring, we had to cancel our men’s retreat as the concerns about COVID 19 first surfaced. We still had dates set aside for this fall for a time for the women at Redeemer to get away and connect with one another at a fall retreat.
Well, here we are. It’s fall and COVID is still in the air. So the fall women’s retreat will look a little different than we had planned. But it’s still a great opportunity for all the women of our church to be able to connect with God, His Word, and each other, and to be refreshed!
In lieu of a getaway, the plans are for a Friday evening get together at Maumelle Park, a Saturday morning Zoom time together and for those who are up for it, a Saturday patio lunch together at Taziki’s. You can plan to come to any or all of the get-togethers you are comfortable participating in! And you’re welcome to bring any friends and family who might want to come.
More details can be found here. In fact, click the link so you can RSVP for each of the activities via Eventbrite. And if you have any questions about the women’s stay-treat, contact Jen Gurney at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This Sunday, we’ll look at what God’s Word has to say to us about how we speak the truth in love to one another as we talk about politics and the upcoming election. How can we represent Jesus well as we seek to engage in current political conversation about our nation?
See you (in person or on line) Sunday!
Soli Deo Gloria!