Summary: What does it mean to speak the truth in love? And how does that relate to Christ being the head of the church?
Ephesians4- The Body
Interesting word “instead”! It is a transition word that cannot stand by itself because the question is begged to be asked “Instead of what?” The past couple of weeks we have been parked here in Ephesians 4 and today our focus begins with Ephesians 4:15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.
Most of us have heard the admonition to speak the truth in love, often it comes right after we have acted like a jerk. Or probably have spoken like a Jerk. Whatever the words were that came out of our mouth they may have been truthful but apparently they weren’t considered to have been loving and there is always someone there to remind us to “speak the truth in love.” And that is great advice, it is akin to “you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar” although I’m not sure why you are trying to catch flies.
And if the truth was known most of us could probably benefit from that advice, the bible abounds with advice about how we speak and being careful of the words we use. Solomon reminds us in Proverbs 12:18 Some people make cutting remarks, but the words of the wise bring healing. Or as my Daddy use to tell me “Keep your words sweet, you never know when you may have to eat them.”
And in most cases it’s just a matter of stopping to think before we speak. It might be the truth but is hurtful? Why are you saying it? Is it necessary? And don’t just flippantly say “But it was true.” That is only half the equation and in most courses 50% is a failing grade.
And then there are other times that we are so mushy and loving that we never speak what is true because we are afraid of hurting someone’s feelings. And that isn’t useful either.
If you are speaking love without the truth you might as well be working for Hallmark for all the impact it will have. We are told that the Rabbis were so concerned with this concept that they went so far as to decree “All brides are beautiful on their wedding day.” That way people could speak in love about how beautiful the bride was and regardless of how she really looked they would be speaking the truth.
Because really what is the solution when you are in this situation (Video clip from Seinfeld Ugly baby). So to absolve you of that difficulty I have decreed that “All babies are beautiful”.
And taken in isolation these words would mean simply what we often use them to mean, they are great advice and more of us would benefit from putting that advice into practice. If Paul had simply written Ephesians 4:15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. Then it would mean no more and no less than “Speak the truth in love.” But those words cannot be read in isolation because they are preceded by that pesky word “Instead”.
It is a great verse but we often take it out of context. In this case that’s not a bad thing and I’ve met a lot of Christians through the years that really need to take that sentiment to heart, but it wasn’t what Paul was trying to convey to the early church.
And you are thinking, “What does it matter?” or “what does it mean?” and those are great questions, they go back to that question that I said we all ask or should ask every time we hear a sermon and the question every preacher should ask as he writes a sermon. “So what?” What is the take away? What is the message for today?
So to find the truth of this passage we need to answer the question “Instead of what?” And we do that by simply reading the verse before this verse. Ephesians 4:14 Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth.
Instead of being immature like children, instead of being tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. Instead of being influenced by people trying to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. Instead of those things we will Ephesians 4:15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. A couple of things to remember. This letter was not written to an individual. There are letters like that in the bible, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon those letters were addressed and written to a person. This letter was addressed and written to a church. There are things that we can and should apply to our personal lives but it was first written to a collective group of Christ followers. Like us. So it was advice to the church.