What Does "Speaking the Truth in Love" Mean?

Words are a powerful force for good or evil. 

Words can either build up or tear down, create a new relationship or kill an old one. And we all possess them–a whole arsenal full. The question is: How will we use our words?

 Hand writing "motivation"

When my daughter was young, she had a friend at our Christian school who antagonized and tormented her. It really bugged me. It was a tough situation because I liked this little girl’s mom. Finally, one day I couldn’t stand it anymore and I said something. As you can imagine, it didn’t go well.

Yeah, I “spoke the truth” alright, (my daughter wasn’t the lone recipient of this treatment), but I didn’t speak it “in love.” No, I growled it amidst a fit of mama-bear-itis. I spoke up because “it needed to be said,” “she needed to know,” what I said was “true.” I spoke because she just didn’t seem to “get it.”

And in the emotive process, I forgot about the “why” of sharing the truth with a friend.

“Speaking the truth in love . . .”This has been a life verse for me, a theme. It’s something I have worked at most of my Christian life. And I stumble over it.


So, how can we be faithful to God and loving to others at the same time?

Is there any way to know what to say, how to say it, when to say it? How much is too much? Not enough? And is it really any of our business?

Over the next few weeks, we are going to explore those questions. Here’s what you can expect:

1) Why “speak truth” to one another? (Isn’t that God’s job?)

2) When should we speak up? (To speak or not to speak)

3) How can we share truth in love? (God’s way, not ours)

So today, let’s start where I went wrong with my friend in the story above, let’s start with the “why.”

1) Why speak truth to one another? What is God’s intent for calling us to encourage and exhort each another?

“. . . 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.”¹

  • To build up the body of Christ by promoting unity and holiness among its members.

“See to it . . . that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another . . . so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”¹

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”²

“So Christ himself gave [spiritual gifts] . . . so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity . . . in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ . . .

“In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.”³

hands building house

There’s another crucial reason God calls us to speak up:

  • To deny the enemy a foothold in our thinking.

” . . . our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but . . . against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”¹

“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds . . . arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God . . . “²

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”³

And finally the best reason:

  • To glorify God and reveal His nature to the world.

“May the God of . . . encouragement grant you to live in . . . harmony with one another . . . that . . . you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”¹

“. . .  As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”²

How often I forget that the way I interact with fellow Christians is supposed to reveal God’s heart to others.

No, I plunge ahead, blast hairlines back with my words and hurt feelings. I speak too forcefully, say too much, and realize–too late– that the more I say, the less I mean. Words can lay a trap that trips me up, betrays me . . . and exposes my root motive in sharing.

So today, before I spew “truth,” I’m going to think through why I “need” to share it.

How will it glorify God and build His church? How will it strengthen the person standing before me? Perhaps my answer to those questions will preserve a relationship or two.

What about you? What motivates you to share truth with other Christians?



Pictures courtesy of Crestock.com

Comments 10

  1. Bethany, Great post and looking forward to the series! Speaking the truth also demands listening to (and for) the truth and accepting it as the truth–the flip side–something I need a lot of help on, too. On speaking, I recall Isaiah saying “Here I am!” and God then tells him he will speak the words of God but no one will hear. The response is never guaranteed or even expected–that is up to God. Thanks again for your wonderful sharing of God’s word!

    1. You’re right: Speaking the truth requires a lot of listening! Especially if God is the One moving us to speak. We need to hear His voice to be able to convey His message. Great insight. 🙂

  2. Thank you Bethany. This post gave me some clarity on a few issues that are in my face right now. I am wanting to “blast” some people or stay silent with others when I should speak – handling both MY way. Thanks for the reminder of God’s way. I have peace in moving forward 🙂

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  3. Great post, Bethany. I also love the phrase, “the more I say the less I mean.” Thanks for the reminder to thinking through before speaking. I love in Proverbs where the writer asks God to put a guard on his mouth!

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  4. Bethany, thanks for sharing. I appreciate your honesty. I can relate to, ‘the more I say, the less I mean.’ My mouth gets ahead of my heart and I end up not saying the words of God that I intended, but the emotional words I have stuffed inside. So I usually need to unstuff those words before God, in order to be emptied of myself before I confront another.
    God bless

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      I loved how you said, ” . . . need to unstuff those words before God . . . before . . .” How much grief we would avoid if we did that! Thanks for sharing your insight.

  5. Wonderful and I relate…speaking in love is tough! Thanks for your insights…Love You.

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