Speaking the Truth in Love

By Ward Shope

I had not slept well the night before.  Today was the day we had designated to discuss our challenges, and the anxiety of this pending conversation kept obsessively echoing in my brain as I alternately tried to pray about it.  From my perspective, the other had deviated from the course we had accepted and was infringing on the boundaries set.  Knowing my unsteady heart, I was apprehensive.

I read a blog this last week asserting that when it comes to confrontation, people tend to operate in three styles.  “Peace Takers” are confident of their grasp of every situation and rarely consider the relational collateral that “speaking the truth” might have.  “Peace Fakers”, on the other hand, see the potential for relational damage and “love” by refusing to engage when things must change.  Their hope in passivity leads only to disaster.  “Peace Makers” work at understanding what is going on, and speak the truth in a way the other can hear.  They may not always get the result they want, but some sort of resolution is usually worked out.

My lack of relational intuition (read “cluelessness”) has been the butt of many family jokes.  Even when I read a conversation well, having a healthy response is not natural for me.  It’s unfortunate that Debbie, who usually knows better, can’t have all my conversations for me.

But as I sat down with the other party, by God’s grace I was able to calmly review the agreement we had made.  They listened well, reiterated their understanding of our mutual goals, and proposed a resolution.  I was a little surprised at the happy outcome.  I had been prepared to take serious action.  Instead, we were able to reinforce the original agreement in a way that made me confident it could work. Oh me of little faith.

As I thankfully contemplated this turn of events, I realized that God often operates as a peace maker with us.  As we read his word and pray, or during the day as we relate to others, his Spirit will bring to mind those things which need to change in the way we fail to love him and others.  The spiritual term for this is “conviction”.  If we had never been convicted, we would not have reached out for the Lord’s forgiveness in the first place, let alone be transformed by Him over time.

As our home group studies the book of Jonah, we see a perfect example of God’s loving confrontation of the prophet in the fourth chapter.  What strikes me about this short book is that God is not only concerned about the spiritual alienation of the 120,000 Ninevites who respond to Jonah’s message; he is also concerned about the hardness of Jonah’s own soul.  His rather patient, pointed, and intricate method of showing Jonah who Jonah is, clearly but lovingly confronts the prophet.  We are left waiting for his response.

This is the way God deals with us. Not willing to let us go our own way (which leads to devastation), he lovingly brings conviction to our hearts so that we might bring glory to Him and peace to others.  Am I sure of myself?  Ignoring my problems? Or listening to Him speaking the truth in love?