…so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:14-16 ESV)
I have lived a fairly sheltered life. I grew up going to a public school, but it was in a predominantly Christian (mostly Baptist) community. Most of my classmates were Christian, and so were most of my teachers. For college, I went to a Concordia. After college, I worked at the same Concordia for eight years. Now, my husband is a seminary student, and I’m still working in the Lutheran world. Most of my friends are not only Christian, but also Lutheran, and a large majority of them are church workers.
I did my graduate work at a state school, which opened my eyes quite a bit to see exactly how sheltered I had been. It was quite a different experience to discuss literature without also discussing the spiritual aspects of literature, to have a professor say, “I think that’s referring to the Bible, but I’m not sure what story.” One of the most memorable people I met was a girl about my age with very similar academic interests as me; we were both specializing in American Women Writers, so we had at least one class together each semester. She was very intelligent, and a lively participant, and extremely open about her past. One night she talked about having been raised Catholic–she described herself as a “recovering Catholic”–but said that now she’s too educated to believe any of it. “I don’t see how any intelligent person can really be a Christian,” she said.
And I didn’t say anything. I just sat there, rather offended, but I didn’t say anything. I wanted to. I wanted to say, “I believe it.” But I didn’t. Neither did anyone else. The conversation swung back to the book we were discussing–something by Hemingway or Fitzgerald or Dreiser or one of those other novelists of the 1920s–and then off again to something else.
It’s one of those moments I wish I could redo. I wish I could go back and say what I wanted to say. If the opportunity arises again, I hope I will say what I want to say. More than that, I hope I will say what God wants me to say. I hope I will be able to “speak the truth in love” rather than out of offense, or out of defensiveness. It’s hard to show love when you’re offended and being defensive.
My husband and I are renting a duplex. Our neighbors renting the other half of the duplex are a gay couple. They were pretty distant at first, but seem to be more friendly these days. One night earlier this month we were having some friends over, and invited our neighbors to join us. They decided not to, but did bring some cookies for us. And just yesterday they knocked on our door to warn us that our pipes freeze when it gets cold enough. I’m hoping that the daily-ness of being neighbors, of sharing a wall and a basement and a garage, of smelling the meals that we cook in our individual kitchens, of doing laundry only a few feet away from each other will lead to conversations. And I’m praying that when those conversations happen, I’ll know what to say and be able to say it.
The guy who owns the duplex next door to ours is the son of a Presbyterian minister. He hasn’t been to church in years, and he knows my husband is studying to be a pastor. He watches us. One Sunday this summer we went to a late-morning church service. That afternoon when my husband was grilling in the backyard, our neighbor came over and said, “I noticed your car was still in the driveway when I got up this morning. You skipped church, didn’t you?” And just last Sunday he happened to be on his porch when we got home from church. He asked, somewhat facetiously, “Did you pray for me?” Oddly enough, I had. We’d been challenged to think of someone to pray for and to pray for opportunities to talk to, and he had crossed my mind as a possibility. He looked a bit surprised when I said yes, I had prayed for him, but then my husband made a joke and we all laughed. I have confidence that these brief exchanges from porch to porch will one day turn into a real conversation. And I pray that I’ll know (and my husband will know) what to say and be able to say it. That we’ll remember that ” faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17 ESV).
We have the greatest message, the greatest Truth: “While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6 ESV).
I love the topic for this issue of thESource–Speaking the Truth in Love. I love what it means for our daily lives. For us to truly speak the truth in love when those times come, we have to first live the truth in love. We have to remember that we too are sinful, but forgiven because of Christ. Speaking the Truth in Love isn’t a one-time thing. As the articles for this month point out, it’s something that requires relationship, that asks us to walk alongside our neighbors. And it’s something that we are meant to do not only for those who do not share our beliefs, but also for those whose beliefs are the same as ours, for our brothers and sisters in Christ.
It isn’t always an easy thing to do, but as God continuously calls us into deeper relationship and communion with Him, I think it becomes easier. As we live out the Truth of God’s love, of being loved by Him and forgiven by Him, that love flows out of us. It colors the way we live our lives. As loved and forgiven children of God, shouldn’t we also be loving and forgiving toward those around us?
This month, spend some time reading through Ephesians chapter four. In this chapter, Paul discusses our calling as Christians and asks us to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called” (vs. 1).
What is it that God has called you to?
What gifts has he entrusted to you “for building up the body of Christ” (vs. 12)?
How are you as a member of the Body of Christ growing in such a way as to help “the body grow so that it builds itself up in love” (vs. 16)?
Compare your old self to your new self, “created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (vs. 24).
How can you be kind to those around you, “forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (vs. 32)?
For further study, read on into chapters five and six. Paul offers several practical ways to live and love. So that we may learn and grow together, I invite you to share your thoughts, learnings, and ah-ha and oh! moments in the comments section below.
In your prayer time this month, ask God to show you ways to live and speak in love. Pray for opportunities for conversations with neighbors, friends, youth, family members, etc. Pray for those people by name. Be specific. And always, always, remember to thank God for the richness of His love for all of us.