Several weeks ago I wrote a column on the tongue and how we speak. And how what we say affects people. I want to approach the same subject but from a slightly different perspective. If there is anything that Christians should value it is truth. After all, our faith is premised on truth. Jesus himself claimed to be the embodiment of truth (John 14:6), taught the truth (John 8:40), and encouraged His followers to know the truth (John 8:32). There is nothing more fundamental to our faith than this: Truth matters.
The Apostle Paul picked up that theme in the book of Ephesians where he encouraged us to practice speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). There are two elements to Paul’s statement and both of them are important. We are to be people who speak the truth; but we are to speak the truth in love. Speaking the truth without love will become judgmental. Ignoring the truth in favor of love will become weak and ineffective. It takes a balance of speaking truth in a spirit and attitude of love to avoid either extreme.
When we talk about truth as Christians our primary emphasis is the truth of the gospel, i.e. that Jesus, the eternal God, came to earth to die for sin and that anyone who seeks forgiveness can find it through His death and resurrection. Now that may be an extremely brief presentation of the gospel but my point is not to lay out all of the nuances of the gospel message. It is simply to communicate that the gospel is the ultimate truth. However, the principle of speaking the truth in love does not end with the gospel; it goes beyond the presentation of the gospel and encompasses everything we say. Whenever we speak we are to speak truth and we are to do it in love. The importance of truth is why God hates lying (Proverbs 6:16-17, 12:12) and regards our words as the most dangerous part of our lives (James 3:2-6). You may not think that what you say is that important but the Psalmist compares words to sharp swords and dangerous arrows that can pierce the body (Psalm 64:3). The New Testament writer James is equally descriptive when he says that the person who does not speak in love has a mouth that is set on fire by hell itself (James 3:6).
But I want to return to the idea of speaking truth. It is so important for us as Christians to measure what we say by the standard of truth. If we did, it would eliminate a lot of problems for us. We wouldn’t gossip as much since we’re not always sure that what we pass on is true. We wouldn’t lie. We wouldn’t repeat “half truths”. We wouldn’t say mean things. We wouldn’t argue as much (since arguments are not concerned with truth but with “winning”). If we really started speaking truth it would radically transform our lives and probably the lives of those around us.
When we stop to think about speaking the truth we have to admit that if we practice it, it will change a lot of what we say. Especially if we speak it in love.