Are Your Words Grounded and Timed in Love?

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The last in our series of guest posts about listening comes from Lori Stanley Roeleveld, and it packs a truth-punch! In this excerpt from her new book The Art of Hard Conversations, Lori shows us the key when it’s time to move from listening to speaking in hard situations. Make sure to read to the end for a chance to win a copy of this helpful book!s

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I was surprised when Carly invited me to lunch.

Our church had been experiencing a conflict that had divided many. Carly and I had had numerous hard conversations about her attitude. Our last conversation had been particularly adversarial, so I was nervous that our meeting might be a vengeful ambush.

Carly arrived after I did, and once we ordered, she didn’t keep me in suspense. “I need your help and your prayers. My doctor called me to discuss my most recent test results, and I don’t want to face it alone. Can you come along?”

I was taken aback. “Of course. Still, I’m surprised you’re asking me.”

“Why?” she said, leaning back in the booth.

“Well, our last few exchanges haven’t been the most comfortable,” I replied.

She nodded. “In fact, I hated those conversations. But through everything, one thing that’s always been clear is that you love me. It takes a huge commitment to love to stick with someone through talks like that. Other people probably have thought those things and just given up on me or walked away. I’ll take the tough talks as long as there’s the love.”

Love is a multidimensional quality. It’s both a noun, representing a feeling, and a verb, representing actions that put others first.

In John 21, after Jesus has risen from the dead, He appears to some of the disciples on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias. In verses 15–19, over breakfast, Jesus asks Peter three times about his love for Him. Peter answers three times that He does, indeed, love Jesus. Jesus’s response to each affirmative answer is to call Peter to action—feeding Jesus’s sheep—in demonstration of this love.

To say that we love others is to say we’re willing to risk our own discomfort to speak hard things to them.

To say that we love Jesus is to say we are ready to obey Him by living and speaking the truth. To say that we love Jesus is to say we are willing to reflect Him by loving and serving others. To say that we love others is to say we’re willing to risk our own discomfort to speak hard things to them.

Love is a feeling that leads to action.

When we prepare for any hard conversation, we must ask ourselves questions about love. Do I love this person, and if not, what am I going to do about that? Am I being loving to speak this truth in this way, at this time, to this person?

Some believers falsely assume that to be loving means to stay silent about truth or to compromise it in some way. Others are so afraid that loving feelings will lead to a softening of truth, they harden their hearts toward others and eschew mercy. This is dangerous thinking—both for the church of Jesus Christ and ultimately for the world.

The world (meaning people who don’t follow Jesus) has absconded with love, replacing God’s idea of love with a facsimile that many buy as the real thing. And not just the world. Some parts of the body of Christ believe that to be loving, biblical truth must be muted or modified.

Not so. Jesus walked on Earth living out perfect love while delivering perfect truth. It is possible. It’s not possible without Jesus, but it’s possible. Love and truth can occupy the same space, just as surely as Christ was fully human and fully God.

I’m aware that these two words frustrate, frighten, or trigger a wound reflex in some people. We’ve heard this phrase before, perhaps tossed around the church like a beach ball (or a dodge ball).

“I’m just speaking the truth in love, is all.”

“Well, don’t you know you have to speak truth in love?”

Intended for useful instruction, this power-filled phrase from Ephesians 4 is too often snapped from its context like a tree branch and used to club innocent passersby in Jesus’s name. The misguided speaker is often leaning heavily toward a personal interpretation of truth, while offering only a passing nod at anything others might recognize as love.

Inhale. Exhale. It’s tempting to edit from Scripture any passage that’s been misused, but this would be detrimental (not to mention heretical). Agreed, there has been a shameful amount of bullying that’s occurred in Jesus’s name. This speaking the truth in love concept has too often been the last word spiritually bludgeoned victims hear just before they hit the mat.

The worse thing we can do, though—worse than lancing the wounds—is to allow the bullies and abusers the last word on God’s Word. It will challenge some of us to revisit “speaking the truth in love,” but these are our Father’s Words. We must reclaim them from the bullies.

Of course, we can fairly represent love and truth simultaneously. Parents do it with children every day. Spouses do it. Church leaders, doctors, friends, and others all speak truth and communicate love, sometimes in the same breath.

Love is our high calling. The highest. We need to be trained and transformed by love, so that love is our first language, our initial reflex, and our emotional default setting. We need to foster loving hearts, if we want that love to influence our words.

(Excerpted from The Art of Hard Conversations, Lori Stanley Roeleveld, February 2019 by permission Kregel Publications)

Giveaway: To enter to win The Art of Hard Conversations, leave a comment telling about someone who has spoken the truth to you in love OR just say “Love covers a multitude of sins!”

 

Lori Stanley Roeleveld is an author, speaker, and disturber of hobbits who enjoys making comfortable Christians late for dinner. She’s authored four encouraging, unsettling books. Her latest release is The Art of Hard Conversations: Biblical Tools for the Tough Talks that Matter. She speaks her mind at www.loriroeleveld.com.

 

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Comments

  1. Cheryl McLean says

    I am a Stephen Minister and speaking the truth in love is key to how we minister to those who are in crisis, spiritually broken, ill, or just plain hurting. We try to be the hands and feet of Jesus to these people. We trust God for the healing, but God guides our words. Sometimes these hurting people need to hear some hard truths, of course through love. This book would be a great resource perhaps it would be one we all study together. I’d love a free copy, of course, to study prior to using it in our program for continuing education.

  2. Tracy Popolizio says

    Just this week I was filling my friend in on what’s been going on with my struggles and she began to encourage me by reminding me of everything I knew to do, yet wasn’t doing, to get through the struggle. She laid it all out in a way that caused my defenses to rise, because I knew it all and in fact have spoken on it at retreats and engagements. Yet God sitll used her to sort of put me in my place and remind me in love what I needed to change. I was so thankful for that talk!

  3. Jalen says

    I was recently pondering this thought as my daughter asked if it was wrong to tell someone in her surroundings not to take the Lord’s name in vain. After some thought, I responded to her question that we should do so when we are in relationship with that person, in right timing and with the right heart of humility. There is such a delicate balance of not shying away from the truth but also speaking it with the right heart.

  4. Suzy George says

    Thank God that love covers a multitude of sins. Although I kind of wish I wouldn’t let it cover some of the sins in my relationships. I wish it were easier to hold some responsible for their purposeful sins instead of ignoring out of love.

    • Lori Roeleveld says

      Accountability rests with God and He does give us guidance about it in our relationships, but if someone doesn’t recognized His authority, it does get harder.

  5. Marvia Walters says

    Thank you for this post: Love covers a multitude of sin.” I love to get this book find it very interesting

  6. Jeanie says

    Yes, I am contemplating on that…”speak the truth in love”. Truly loving the person you’re talking with entails
    all the attributes of love in I Cor. 13. I know I avoid certain conversations because I know they’re going to be
    long and potentially emotionally exhausting (selfishly I just wish they’d agree to disagree so we could move on
    quickly) With GRACE & PRAYER we press on….onward christian soldiers!

  7. Jane says

    Tough subject that you handled so well, Lori! It is so different to receive correction or education when it is truly delivered in love. I am positive we have all heard and been hurt by “truth” given without love.
    My mother also had a statement delivered often that “Love takes the initiative.” When God is working in my life to speak the truth, I must make sure I do that ONLY when I can bring it with love.
    I am working through something now and would treasure your book about hard conversations.

    • Lori Roeleveld says

      I wholeheartedly agree with your mother’s phrase, “Love takes the initiative.” I often say “Love initiates.” Prayers for your current situation!

  8. Pamela J. says

    When my flesh wants to speak – instead of the Spirit dwelling within me – my husband speaks truth in love to remind to walk in that Spirit of Truth.

  9. Cindy Burns says

    At the soon age of 64 I so desire a change God would perform in my me through tangible tools such as this book. Many times my choice of words differs from the grace I’m desiring to extend.

  10. Desiree says

    My husband has been one who has spoken truth in love to me. I am so grateful for this. Strongholds and bondages have been broken in my life and God has used it grow me in some very deep ways.

  11. Lisa says

    Thank you Amy for introducing us to Lori. Congrats Lori on your book. I kept thinking of the phrase. “Love Hurts”. I cannot imagine the horrific pain Jesus went through while being beaten prior to the cross and then dying on the cross to save me from my sins. Now…..that is “Love”. When I try to comprehend the unconditional love of Christ, it overwhelms me how much he loves me even when I am not so lovable. ~Lisa~