I’ve been thinking this week about a phrase that Paul wrote in his letter to the followers of Jesus in Ephesus: “we will speak the truth in love”.
My thoughts were kick-started by listening to Shauna Niequist speaking about the ancient proverb, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” You can listen to her talk here. She tells of a visit she made to a metal worker who showed her that you need two things to shape metal – heat and force. We can hammer metal with intense force, but if there’s no heat it’s just big noise and no movement. There must be heat before there can be shape.
Shauna then talks about the two things that are needed if we are to engage in the arena of personal growth – trust and truth. If there’s no trust, the words that are said, however truthful, will be just that – words, and probably hurtful ones at that; if there’s too much trust, the truthful words never get said. I’ve been in both positions. Someone once said some very hurtful things to me and concluded with, “I’m just being honest.” Yeah, right! And wary of this trap, I’ve often failed to say things that I should have said because I didn’t want to upset the other person, even although leaving them where they were did them no favours. It’s critical to have the two in tandem if personal transformation is to take place.
So back to Ephesians.
Someone once said that the sense of “we will speak the truth in love” in the original Greek (and who am I to argue!) is “truthing it in love”. I like that. There’s the sense of continuation, not just a vomit of words, but a walking alongside another person, loving them, easing them into realisation of the truth and, as they say in the classier classics, “being there for them”. Isn’t that what you would want from a friend?
And to what end are we to engage in this often difficult path with others? It’s so that we, and they, grow up – “God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love—like Christ in everything. We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do. He keeps us in step with each other.”