“Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” — John 7:38
Speaking the Truth in Love, by Randall D. Kittle


“Let all that you do be done with love.” — 1 Corinthians 16:14

Part of spiritual maturity is being able to speak the truth in love. Ephesians 4:14–15 tells us “that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head — Christ.”

Speaking the truth in love is really quite simple. It only involves two steps: having love as the underlying principle and motivation for our actions, and speaking the truth. Of these two important points, the first, operating in love, is the most important, for
“he who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:8).

It’s All Or Nothing
It is important that we all come to realize that no matter how powerful or dramatic a revelation we may have experienced, no matter how often God might use us to give a word of knowledge or deliver a prophetic message; unless we have love, it will be nothing. In fact, it will be worse than nothing, it will be a harsh noise in God’s ear. “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy … but have not love, I am nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:1–2). With God, the end does not justify the means. In fact, this verse reveals the great spiritual truth that how we say something and why we say something can be far more important than what it is we actually say.

Great works and marvelous ministry become wood, hay, and stubble when done with the wrong attitude or improper motive. With God it’s all or nothing. Either you did it in love, or it was sounding brass. Either you spoke because and in love, or it was a clanging cymbal. Great sacrifices are nullified and miraculous ministry is invalidated when love is not the driving force behind them. Without love the apostolic is apostate, the prophetic is pathetic, and pastors are merely hirelings.

Follow the Way of Love
It is not sufficient to have the words of God, and to desire the purposes of God, we must operate and flow in the ways of God. Jesus Christ is not only the Truth and the Life, He is also the Way (see John 14:6). 1 Corinthians 14:1 tells us that it is good to desire spiritual gifts, especially prophecy, but it tells us first and foremost that we must follow the way of love. “Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy” (1 Corinthians 14:1). The key requirement for moving in the revelatory gifts (or doing any kind of ministry for that matter) is found at the beginning of this verse: “Follow the way of love …” The Greek word translated here as “follow” is “dioko.” This word does not mean to sheepishly plod along after, but “to run swiftly in order to catch a person or thing; to press on; to seek after eagerly; to earnestly endeavor to acquire.” Figuratively, it is used of one who runs swiftly in a race to reach the goal. The New King James more accurately translates this verse as “Pursue love.” If we are to use the gifts God has given us to minister to others, we must first and foremost pursue love. Having love as an undergirding for what we speak keeps our words on the right track, for “It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (1 Corinthians 13:7). The Scriptures call this principle of ministering in the way of God through the love of God “the most excellent way” (1 Corinthians 12:31).

Three Kinds of Truth
A “pure word” is not only received from God, but spoken with love — and not just love for the word, or even love for God, but true love for the one with whom we are sharing. The factual things we speak, can be classified as three types of truth depending upon the motivation with which they are shared with others. The motive behind why we share something can have three sources. If Satan motivates them, they are “truths that have become lies,” for the Scriptures tell us that Satan is the father of lies, and in him there is no truth. If we share because of our desires, our concerns, or our agenda, then the words we speak are “truth that has become noise,” for no matter how factual it may be, without love it is little more than a clanging cymbal. If it is truly God’s love that motivates what we speak, then what we have to say is “truth that is Truth.” It is only this kind of truth — truth that reflects Jesus the living Truth — that strengthens, sets free, and builds up others.

It is important that we speak the truth in love, not simply love to speak the truth. It is not the harshness or the niceness of our message, but the love that is in our heart that tells the true story. My mother used to tell me,
“If you don’t have something nice to say about someone, then don’t say anything at all.” Scripturally speaking we would render this expression, “If you can’t say what it is God has given you to say from a standpoint of deep, abounding love, then you have nothing to say!”

Working Through Love
Every aspect of our walk of faith — proclaiming prophetic promises, reproving false doctrine, voicing our concerns over questionable conduct, etc. — must be done in love, for the Bible tells us that our faith works through love. “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love(Galatians 5:6). It is as if love is the channel through which our faith must flow. If we have little love, the channel will be small, thus limiting what faith can accomplish. A man of great faith, but who is without love, is like a great house without a door — he is of little use in the kingdom of God.

When we have a need in our lives, it is often those who love us the most who have the most faith for us. The care and concern they have for us is a river of life through which their faith flows. Their prayers of compassion, founded in love, avail much in the kingdom of God. The words they speak to us bring light to our darkness and life to our souls, for they are not just speaking the truth of the kingdom of God to us, but speaking this truth in love.

Speaking The Truth
The second part of speaking the truth in love is to speak the truth. As simple as this may seem, for many believers it is far more difficult than it sounds. The difficulty is that most who speak the truth do not have love, and most believers who have love struggle to speak the truth — at least whenever it might be received as negative. The problem for many is that they have mistaken tolerance for love. And so, many truths that God has revealed go unspoken in a misguided quest to walk in tolerance.

Perhaps no other word has been so actively and undeservedly elevated in our day as “tolerance.” It is thought to be a crowning virtue to be “broad-minded,” to have a good word for everything, and get along with everyone no matter how ungodly they are. If we allow a reverence for tolerance to enter our lives, we will soon appease the very things God has called us to oppose. While the world will commend you for tolerance and tell you that you are walking on the pathway of love, the Lord judges us not only for what we do, but also for what we tolerate. In the book of Revelation the Lord reproved the church of Thyatira for the sin of putting up with what should have been “shouted down” (see Revelation 2:18–20). There is no place in the kingdom of God for a lenient attitude toward evil. God is not a doting grandpa who overlooks all our flaws and indulges our every whim, and he expects us to hate evil and crucify the flesh.

Faithful Wounds
The reason tolerance looks so appealing to many (and seems to resemble love) is that sometimes the things we need to say can seem negative and hurtful. We begin to think, “That doesn’t seem like love, and it doesn’t sound very much like Jesus.” But remember, Jesus called Peter “Satan.” He also called the Pharisees snakes and tombstones. When Jesus forgave sins He didn’t just pat people on the head and say “Oh, that’s OK.” He said, “Go, and sin no more!” A. W. Tozer put it this way, “The most intolerant book in all the wide world is the Bible, the inspired Word of God, and the most intolerant teacher who ever addressed himself to an audience was the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.” While some of the things Jesus said and did might seem confrontative, hard, wounding, and intolerant; do you think He was speaking the truth in love? Of course He was; He was love incarnate! God often must bring into our lives loving confrontation that produces faithful wounds. The Scriptures say “Faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Proverbs 27:6). Though this is a biblical principle, it goes against the grain of our Western theology. We tend to associate wounds with causing harm or injury. Let us remember, however, that God brings wounds of correction and healing — not wounds of punishment and harm.

We think nothing of a surgeon’s incision that wounds the skin and underlying tissue. We do not hold the “wound” against the surgeon, for we know it is necessary to bring healing and wholeness. Yet if a thief were to cut to the exact same depth as the scalpel, stabbing you with a knife, you would not think of him as trying to do you a great service — for his intention is to bring harm. It is the intention of the heart that determines if a wound is for healing or harm. Scripture says we should see God’s correction like that of a surgeon — it produces healing and wholeness:
“Behold, happy is the man whom God corrects; therefore do not despise the chastening of the Almighty. For He bruises, but He binds up; he wounds, but His hands make whole” (Job 5:17–18).

When the intention of our heart is love and blessing toward the one we speak, we not only can but should speak forth the things of the truth of God whether these words will be encouraging, challenging, or wounding. As long as it is done in an atmosphere of care and gentleness, the truth must be spoken, for only then can we and those with whom we share grow up into the image of the likeness of Christ.

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