Spiritual leaders need to find ways to communicate truth in love
By Susie Hawkins
Special to TAB Media
We are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ …” (Eph. 4:14–15).
She sighed and said, “So … how do I tell him?” My friend had confided that her husband had been criticized by a church leader, one whom they both respected. He was understandably hurt and defensive, a normal reaction. The conversation turned, however, when she gingerly mentioned there could be some merit in the criticism. Her husband couldn’t see it, but she could and knew others did as well. How could she best communicate this to him? How do you speak a difficult truth in a way that it can be received?
Spiritual leaders especially need to find effective ways to speak truth to others within a gospel context, in accordance with Ephesians 4:15, “… speaking the truth in love.” It is a sign of spiritual maturity, according to Paul. This is an essential skill to cultivate because we are occasionally called on to have this type of conversation with others. Your adult child, your close friend, a co-worker, church member or others may need to hear “truth” — but it must always be expressed in love, gentleness and respect. This verse is couched in Ephesians 4, a chapter devoted to promoting unity within the body of Christ. It is significant that these two virtues, truth and love, are linked together. Speaking truth is the easy part – doing it with authentic grace and honesty takes it to another level.
These three considerations may help you to “speak truth in love”:
- Check your motivation. What is driving you? Has this person offended you? If so, are you pursuing a confrontation for your own purposes? Or, like the wife above, do you genuinely seek what is best for the other person? Take some time to think, pray and ask the Holy Spirit to cleanse your heart of any self-serving attitudes. St. Teresa de Avila advised, “Be gentle with all and stern with yourself.”
- Consider your timing, since you are looking to capture a moment when you have his or her ear. If the opportunity presents itself, don’t hesitate. On the other hand, don’t force it if you sense the time isn’t right. Pray God will open the door to a conversation, if He so wills.
- Come up with a “word picture,” a metaphorical story or scenario used to express a truth. For example, in 2 Samuel 12 the prophet Nathan confronted David regarding his adultery with Bathsheba. However, rather than immediately accusing him, he came in the back door of David’s heart with his story of a poor family, a beloved pet lamb and a cruel rich man. Nathan skillfully wove this word picture in order that David might see his actions from God’s perspective. Granted, this is a dramatic example — most of our situations are much more ordinary. Still, it illustrates an extremely effective way to communicate truth with someone in authority over you or someone who is resisting truth.
These conversations are not easy but they are necessary at times. May we each have the wisdom to speak truth with love, waiting on God’s timing and doing so with a gracious spirit. “The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer” (Prov. 15:28).
EDITOR’S NOTE — Susie Hawkins enjoys teaching the Bible, speaking, and working with ministry wives from her home base in Dallas, Texas. This column originally appeared at Bible.org.
‘Too big for God to use’
Preaching from Judges 6:1–16 during a sermon earlier this year, Pastor Bill Wilks shared how “the Israelites thought they were brought low because of the Midianites, but God said to look again.”
“We see the surface problem, but God sees the root problem. Appearances can be deceiving; and we should never overlook the God factor,” explained Wilks, pastor of NorthPark Baptist Church in Trussville, Alabama.
“We can be too big for God to use us but never too small,” he said. “God sees all the potential in us and wants to draw it out.
“But we — the people of God — may need to look at our own hearts to see where we are rebelling against Him as individuals and as churches. When people do what is right in their own eyes, they often miss what is right in the eyes of God.”
Expectantly waiting on God
In my early Christian days, my faith was really shallow. As I’ve grown spiritually, I’ve learned over and over that I just need to ask, seek and knock and then just get out of the way.
Despite my useless attempts to guide God’s hand, I continually realize I’m not very good at being a holy spirit. That’s not my job, that’s not any of our jobs. The Holy Spirit is guiding us, giving us direction. The beautiful thing is He honors our will. He doesn’t force Himself upon us. We are not puppets, and He’s not a marionette. He allows us to go as far as our will allows us.
When you give it up to Him and seek Him in what you are doing, it certainly pays dividends. It doesn’t mean you have to go do all this good stuff so [you] might be blessed. We are all blessed in different ways. Sometimes it’s through tragedy that we are blessed.
Countless times through disaster relief efforts a need will arise. We need help with more equipment, with arranging schedules. The approach that works best is to ask God for the provision and protection and then expectantly wait.
During the recent effort in Louisiana, we would have missed [a specific] opportunity if we had not listened to what God was saying, being willing to get out of [our] comfort zone a bit. … We would have missed that opportunity had we said I can’t do what I came here to do so I’m not going to do anything rather than let’s see what God can do by willing servants.
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteer
(Excerpt from a recent Amplify podcast interview)
We never have anything more important to do than to get on our knees before God.
Director of the Land Center for Cultural Engagement
To hear that they (residents) are not forgotten, and that God sees them and has sent us to help them, is powerful.
Disaster Relief director, Maryland/Delaware
COVID brought a change, a redo. We have rebuilt our mission, vision, strategy, signs and worship team. Fighting is gone, we just serve.
Pastor Johnny Weldon
Moultrie Baptist Church, St. Augustine, Fla.
God didn’t give us the Ten Commandments to be a checklist so we could try to climb the mountain on our own. Instead, He came down the mountain to us with His message of salvation.
FBC Starkville, Miss. via Facebook
If there has ever been a time where we need Christian conviction marked by winsome witness, it is now. We need to be unapologetic in terms of the convictional posture that we hold as we engage the issues of the day, but we cannot be jerks for Jesus when we do that in the public square.
President Adam W. Greenway
The decision for hope rests on what we believe at the deepest levels — what our most basic convictions are about the world and about God and about the future. We choose hope, not as a naive wish, but as a choice with our eyes wide open to the reality of the world and our responsibility to be at work in it.
Diana Garland, author
“Why I Am a Social Worker”
When I was a young man just starting out, a pastor helped me so I could receive a scholarship and get an education. It is a joy to think In Touch (Ministries) is partnering with Southwestern (Seminary) to do that for young men and women all over the world.
Pastor emeritus Charles Stanley, FBC Atlanta
For the believer, … for the Christian, … for the child of God, there must be a point in your life when your fear is replaced by faith. … Where your anxiety is replaced by adoration. … Where your hopelessness is turned into hopefulness.
Pastor Fred Luter
Franklin Avenue Baptist Church, New Orleans
As a pastor you know all about grief; you’ve read books about grief; you’ve counseled grieving people. But when you experience it, it can be a very dark place.
Ed Litton, SBC president
Redemption Church, Saraland, Alabama
From the Twitterverse
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