I cannot take the words back. They’re in print. But they caused such pain. What went wrong? I’ve re-read them for content and I still stand by them. They represent what I wanted to say, what I felt I needed to say. I believed I was sending them in love, ‘for your good’. But they cut like a knife; you’re bleeding. Now what?
I have retraced my steps this week to think about what it means to ‘speak the truth in love’. These thoughts have synced with my pondering of what it means to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. I’ve been thinking about each of these facets of me, wondering what it would look like to love God as He intends. For instance, if I am to love the Lord my God with all my heart what does this look like?
It’s one thing to love Him with the use of my mind; this seems to be my preferred mode. With my mind I study His Word. With my mind I compose thoughts. Knowing the truth. Pondering the truth. These things I enjoy doing. But sometimes my heart gets left behind.
I can write right words without letting a heart of love control them. Love is patient, love is kind. It is not arrogant or rude insisting on its own way of thinking. It is not driven by irritation or resentment. (Words composed out of frustration are seldom words that effect the desired result!) Words fired like rock salt from a shotgun, though true, will only burn and wound. These aren’t the wounds of a friend.
I’m not big on mercy. As those nearest me have already realized, it does not come naturally to me. I’m all about TRUTH! But without tender mercy truth only wounds, doing more harm than good. Like a bleach bath for eczema, the proportions matter! Too much bleach irritates, burns and destroys the skin it is intended to heal.
To love God with all my heart means I have to apply truth with kindness and gentleness, keeping truth and mercy in careful proportion. Knowing and SAYING(!) what is right is not enough. To love the Lord with all my heart means loving others in my dispensing of the truth they need to hear. It is not enough to say I’m speaking because I love them. I must “speak the truth IN LOVE’’. Love builds up. It encourages with the aim of motivating change for the other’s good.
Paul shows how this is done in advising Timothy how to negotiate with those who oppose him: “The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness.” Why? Because the object is not to spout off the truth in offensive ways so that I can wear an “I’M RIGHT—YOU’RE WRONG” badge with self-congratulatory smugness. (Love “does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.”) The object is to win over the ‘opponent’ to the truth. To help him see rightly. Caustic words don’t do that. Gentle words may. But ultimately it is God who grants the repentance that leads to a knowledge of truth. Humble words delivered gently are much more apt to engender this coming to one’s senses and so escaping the snare of deception. Isn’t this the object?
Too often I have thought that being right and saying so would suffice.
But God speaks gently. He is kind. And patient. He leads me to repentance…by means of the Truth.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer. Ps.19:14
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Eph.4:29
And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.
Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned, as it were, with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person. Col.4:6