15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, Ephesians 4:15-16 English Standard Version (ESV)
Is speaking the truth in love a real possibility? We seem to live in a culture where truth is a moving target. How can a person even begin to speak with any sort of intention or conviction – much less love if there is no basis? It seems then this verse can only applicable to those who land on a common “truth”. Fortunately for Christians, we have access to the Truth. There will be many in opposition to my last statement because they don’t agree there is a singular truth. This is a discussion for another time. For those believing Christ is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6 emphasis mine), there exists a common standard. The Bible along with Holy Spirit have been graciously provided for us as guides along our path.
Presently and in the foreseeable future, there are and will be several areas where the Christian community has an opportunity for healthy debate and edification. People outside Christianity will probably be surprised this exists within our framework of faith. Christians are often portrayed as mindless, gutless entities submitting themselves to a “Borg-like” collective (for all you Trekkie’s out there). The fact we’re actually permitted to challenge each other within the scope of our fellowship may be enough to convince naysayers of the credibility of our claims. Further, we’re actually asked to take ownership in our Christian experience. ..., work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, Philippians 2:12 Debate and choice are necessities of the Christian life.
The challenge comes in defining or interpreting the standard. There are certain areas where the Bible is very clear (even within historical context). However, others are left to “work out … with fear and trembling” with the Holy Spirit as our guide. Care should be given to the second and boldness to the first. One factor is constantly the “kink in the chain” to the former: justification. Christians have and continue to be masters in this area. We easily see the “speck” in other’s eyes but fail to see the “plank” in our own because we’ve simply chosen to make an allowance for it in our lives. In some cases, it’s easier to make a blanket statement that makes justifications for everyone (including ourselves). If no one holds to a standard, it works in everyone’s favor. So, when I choose to divert from the path, no one can hold me accountable. This is the Christian version of CYA.
“God understands my heart.”
“I need this right now.”
Everything should always be approached with love. But sometimes love is tough and corrective in nature.
4 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:1-3
The New Life
17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self,[f] which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:17-24
The first verse shows there is an end game in the approach. The goal is to walk in a manner worthy of our calling and achieve unity of the Spirit. The second sets the tone for a standard. The world needs to see us as a unified body; even when wading through contention.
Love wins only when we’re pursuing unity of the Spirit while challenging each other to hold to our Standard.