A meditation to Ephesians 4:15.
CARING compassion would found all our affairs in the ministry of the Word with people, but for the case of truth. But isn’t caring compassion founded most in the speaking of truth… gently? Yet, it’s much easier pondered than achieved.
Loving with the truth is a delicate balance that errs toward grace without compromising truth; the allowance of time and space for trust to be protected, nurtured and nourished. But there isn’t always the time and space available. There are also many potential mismatches in perception, conflicting goals and motivations, people’s baggage, and people’s personalities and capacities to take into account.
We may ‘speak the truth in love’ — according to our own perception — and get it totally wrong: speak truth haphazardly, according to those who disagree. But to speak truth haphazardly fails not only love but truth also.
Truth and love converge and merge in grace. Grace, yes, is the accomplishment of truth.
Truth is never devoid of love.
The giving and receiving of feedback is the primary course for speaking the truth in love. The giving and receiving of feedback, therefore, is where speaking the truth in love is tested. A manager cannot give poor feedback and accuse the receiver that they are too sensitive if there is an outburst; they have failed to speak the truth in love if there is an outburst. Perhaps they misunderstand the dynamic. Maybe they haven’t sufficiently cared to understand. This can be said because the manager is in control of the interaction. But they may not feel in control. Their competence, and history, could be their enemy. There is little trust in the bank, perhaps. See how, at times, it may be impossible to speak the truth in love. Some interactions are broken before they start. External help is required.
This is because it depends on the perception of the receiver, not the giver’s perception.
The giver of the communication — the person seeking to love with the truth — has the burden of proof, and not the receiver. The receiver is in the passive role. It’s easy to submit to feedback that is deemed fair from the view of the receiver. But if the truth offends it’s not spoken in love; not according to the receiver of that love. Love that is given that does not love falls short of love. A husband cannot say he has loved his wife if his wife says he hasn’t. It doesn’t mean he hasn’t attempted to love his wife. A father has fallen short of love if his child rejects him. It doesn’t mean he hasn’t attempted to love his child. Love means to give; but it’s always a giving-receiving transaction. Love didn’t occur unless it was received. There will be exceptions in the case of psychological dysfunction in a person, but these are rarer than we think. Even someone with a personality disorder may be loved with the truth, but, in that case, the truth must fit their perception of truth more than ever. And it needs to be deployed gently, which takes great skill of care.
Like the Father so loved the world he gave his only Son, that perfect love is only completed in the believer when they accept it — when God’s love is received. God’s love, whilst perfect, is useless to a person yet to believe until it’s received. Human love is nowhere near as perfect; we must concentrate ever more on the receiver’s experience.
Loving with the truth can be like walking through a minefield. But we can be sure that God gives us a way. It depends on the receiver of our communication. Love is a giving activity.
As we engage someone, loving them with the truth, their response will dictate whether we have spoken the truth in love. It may seem an insufficiently postmodern way of looking at it, but nonetheless, it does us no good whatsoever to speak truth but miss love. It’s a missing of the mark, i.e. sin.
Loving with the truth is evidenced when people are built up; when they’re safe. Only when people feel safe can they grow.
Love with the truth and with the truth you will love.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.