“Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth” 2 Timothy 2:25
In Ephesians 4:14 Paul tells us of the importance of speaking the truth in love. This is a challenging command, and there are a number of things that are required to fully fulfil it. First of all we need to know the truth. Jesus tells us that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6). His word is truth, and should form the basis of all the truth that we speak in love. And we speak that truth in order to bring life.
Secondly we need to have the courage to speak that truth. This can be tough, especially when we know that truth won’t be well received. I can think of one particular situation recently where a friend I knew was looking advice on an issue. I had an opinion, others shared that opinion, we felt that opinion was in line with God’s will, but we also knew that that opinion was the opposite of what they would want to hear. So while the group felt one way, only I took the step to express that to them. We need to be prepared that the truth is not what people necessarily want to hear, especially when they are seeking advice – they want to hear what allows them to do what they want!We need to make sure when we speak the truth it is done in love. In the example above I made my thoughts clear, but made it clear they were just my thoughts. Speaking the truth in love means not forcing anything on anyone, but presenting them with God’s truth and allowing them to decide how they respond. Don’t back down on your position if it isn’t well received, but don’t keep making a big issue out of it. State the truth and leave it at that. Continue loving them as you wait for them to accept the Truth. Don’t stop loving them if they become more cold towards you as a result of the truth you have shared. The advice I gave my friend caused a temporary rift to form between us, which has now been restored. Do I regret that? Yes. Would I give different advice if the situation was repeated? Absolutely not. Sticking to Truth is way more important than any earthly friendship. If you truly love someone the loving thing is not to tell them what they want to hear but what their heavenly Father needs them to hear. However I have learnt some important lessons that hopefully would help avoid it causing a riff.
Firstly surround the situation in prayer – before you speak the truth pray for clarity to make sure that what you say is truth. Pray for the person you are speaking it to, that they will receive it well. As you speak pray that the Holy Spirit would inspire your words and that He would speak through you. And after you have spoken the truth continue praying for the person. Pray that they would accept the truth. Pray that they would understand why you said what you did. Pray that they would seek to follow God’s will in the situation. And if what you said caused any tension pray for a restoration in your friendship.
Secondly – speak the truth in private. Don’t make a bigger deal out of things than is necessary. Take the person aside to have the conversation.
Third – discuss it with others first. Make sure they agree with you and feel this person needs to hear the truth that you want to share.
It is also important to be aware that just because you feel that what you have to say is from God, and is truth for that person’s situation, there can be all sorts of stuff going on that you are not aware of. Make sure you are clear exactly what you are trying to say, and make sure they understand what you have shared in the way you meant it. As human beings we are great at reading all sorts of additional meaning into words spoken to us. People can have a huge range of emotional baggage that affects how they hear your words, and we need to be sensitive to that. Follow up with them to make sure you are both on the same page in terms of what was said and what was meant.
Make sure you take the time to listen to them and show them that the reason you are saying what you are saying is because you care for them – don’t just speak the truth in love, but show them love too.
Finally – leave it in God’s hands. Your words can not change their opinion. The conviction of the Holy Spirit can.