Throughout my life as a layperson and as a pastor, I’ve been a part of at least 20 churches. And in each one of those experiences, the church was at some point going through a difficult conversation. For some, it was about what kind of music we would play during the service. For others, it was women in ministry. For another, it was whether to build another wing. Lately, it’s been racism and political loyalties. Since those churches were full of humans with different opinions about important topics, zero times did all of us agree on everything.
And yet, some of those churches were able to thrive in the midst of those disagreements and some fell apart. Some were able to rise to the level of unity that Paul describes in Ephesians 4 but others kept insisting that their way of doing church was the only biblical way. Interestingly enough, those people who decided that their way was the only right way often used Ephesians 4 to justify how they were acting. Even though they were rude and condescending, angry or even dismissive, they felt justified because they were just “speaking the truth in love.”
I began to wonder if all this emphasis we have put on the truth, and on truth-telling, has created an unhealthy culture in our churches. What if pastors started to see there jobs, not as gatekeepers of the bulleted list of things we have to believe to get into heaven, but as facilitators of loving interactions between people who are committed to loving people better?
My book Love Matters More: How Fighting to be Right Keeps us From Loving Like Jesus is my journey with this phrase “speaking the truth in love.” I ask questions like:
- What does the Bible have to say about standing up for the truth?
- Is it possible to be in close relationship with someone you disagree with fundamentally about important things?
- What would it look like to take the Greatest Commandment more seriously in our lives and in our churches?
- What is our responsibility as Christians to give people our opinion on their life choices?
Ultimately, I come to the conclusion that the Bible is pretty clear that truth, when biblically defined, has its true expression in loving action toward our neighbor. There is not really a tension between truth and love because truth is relational and an important tool as we set our sights on the ultimate aim of loving God and loving our neighbor as ourselves.
This book is a practical way to . . .
- Think about how to bridge the divides in your congregations
- Get to some of the root causes for why it’s so hard for us to love well in the midst of disagreements in the church
- Teach some practical skills to people for how to talk in more loving ways to people they disagree with