"Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the head, that is, Christ. (Eph. 4:15)
Have you ever thought about how hard it is to put that verse into practice? Especially the part about speaking the truth in love. Several things this week have brought this to mind. Maybe it's the heat or maybe it's just the general crankiness of the age, but there is something less than harmony at work.
It's not that I think everyone should always agree. I don't -- it's not possible and not even desirable. The verses leading up to verse 15 talk about the body of Christ. Its many parts, with their different functions, join together to form one body.
It's an image that is both encouraging and discouraging at the same time. Encouragement comes in knowing that as a part of the body I have gifts to use for the kingdom. But I'm often discouraged by how the members of the body squabble among themselves, inflicting hurt and fostering discord.
All those different parts of the body often have a hard time recognizing the value of the parts different from themselves. But in our very diversity is our greatest strength. The different gifts work together and complete each other so that the church (ideally) can function most effectively. That's the picture Paul gives in this chapter, as well as in other places in Romans and 1 Corinthians.
It seems to me that the truth-speaking comes in as a means of holding one another accountable. And I think most of us would rather be the one speaking the truth -- or at least what we think is the truth -- than the one hearing the truth, because the truth often makes us uncomfortable or is downright painful.
And under the guise of speaking truth, we often justify all kinds of hurt. But there's another side to this -- we can be so convinced that what we are hearing is only meant to hurt and tear down that we refuse to recognize the truth when we hear it. (And how do we recognize truth, anyway? Through the Word and the work of the Holy Spirit, for starters.)
I'll admit that I am more likely to be guilty of the latter reaction. My response to criticism is often to get defensive and God has to put some pressure on me before I'll see the truth.
So where am I going with this? I see these kind of disagreements all around -- in politics, in debate about what the church is supposed to look like or what kind of music we use in our worship services, and in discussions about Christian fiction. I see people hesitate to speak from the passion of their hearts because they fear being misinterpreted. I see people tired of armchair critics tearing away at their hard work.
But I believe there is room for discussion and differences of opinion about everything I've mentioned above. There is room for God's truth spoken in love.
There is not room for defensive digging in of our heels and closing our ears and humming loudly.
We all need to grow up in Christ.
(Rant over now. Have a nice weekend.)