Speaking the Truth in Love

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I was privileged and blessed to grow up in a Christian home and church, though not in the Reformed tradition. As a college student, I was encouraged to read the writings of R.C. Sproul, James Montgomery Boice,  and others, who introduced me to Reformed theology. In their books, I found a deep exposition of Scripture that enriched my Christian faith. But as I grew in my understanding of the doctrines of grace, covenant theology, and other Reformed truths, I must confess that my knowledge of and zeal for Reformed theology often led me to be hypercritical of others. I loved to point out how the theology that other Christians held was shallow and inconsistent.

Initially, attending a Reformed seminary did not help with my critical attitude toward others who disagreed with me. I was so judgmental that my seminary roommates jokingly called me “Judge Dredd” after the character from the horrendous Sylvester Stallone movie in which he acted as judge, jury, and executioner, repeatedly declaring, “I am the law.” I had discovered the rich wealth of biblical truth deposited in the Reformed tradition, but I was intent on harshly judging the theology of others who did not measure up.

Ephesians 4:15–16 teaches:

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.

“Speaking the truth in love” is necessary for us who are a part of the body of Christ. And it is especially necessary when we are communicating to others who disagree with us. The doctrinal truths found in the Bible are important for us to study diligently, to share with others, and at times to defend. However, the biblical command that the Apostle Paul gives is always to speak the truth in love. This applies whether you are a layperson disagreeing with a friend or a senior pastor disagreeing with another theologian. We are instructed to speak the truth in love.

How do we speak the truth in love? First Corinthians 13:4–7 describes:

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

I wish these verses had taken root during my early years of theological study. If they had, my zeal to speak of and share the truth of the Reformed tradition would have been expressed with a love that did not tear others down but instead was patient, kind, enduring, and without arrogance. Let us strive to speak the truth in love in order to build up the body of Christ as we serve Christ and one another.

First published in Tabletalk Magazine, an outreach of Ligonier. For permissions, view our Copyright Policy.