We have been slowly trying to understand what Paul means to speak the truth in love in Ephesians 4:15. Balancing the desire to love with the need for truth is enough of a challenge for most leaders. But the leadership challenge multiplies when Paul adds 14 distinct characteristics of love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7!
By this time in the journey, you may be asking, “How long do I need to speak truth in love? Is there no end? What happens when I grow weary of speaking truth to people who don’t change?”
Paul concludes his explanation of love by reminding us that love always perseveres (1 Corinthians 13:7). Love keeps trying after others have stopped. It does not quit! Servant leaders learn what it means to speak the truth with perseverance.
Speaking the truth with perseverance requires balance.
Some leaders speak truth but quit when they don’t see the results they desire. They allow their own discouragement to stop them from speaking truth. Other leaders may persevere in a relationship for a long time but never take the step of speaking truth. Both truth and perseverance are needed.
Because love always hopes, love doesn’t quit or give up. Through good times and bad, true love perseveres. Is there someone you once loved and tried to speak the truth to, but gave up when nothing seemed to change? Paul says to us all, love always perseveres. Love tries again….and again!
Servant leaders learn that there is never a time to stop speaking truth!
Speaking the truth with perseverance reveals maturity.
Paul reminds us that when we speak truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ (Ephesians 4:15). Speaking truth with perseverance requires great patience, faithfulness and self-control. All these are fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) that take time for God to develop in our hearts.
As leaders grow in maturity, they learn not to give up quickly on others. They recognize that truth may take months or years to produce fruit in the life of the listener. As servant leaders mature, they grow in their ability to speak truth with perseverance.
Speaking the truth with perseverance reflects Jesus.
Jesus showed a balance of truth and perseverance in His conversations with Peter. We have already observed how patiently Jesus waited before speaking the truth to Peter after his painful denial of Christ.
When the time was finally right, Jesus spoke truth to Peter on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. And when Jesus spoke truth He persevered, asking the same question three times. The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep” (John 21:17).
Peter was hurt because of Jesus’ persistence in asking this question. But Jesus kept on, gently reminding Peter of the three times he had denied Christ. Jesus exposed Peter’s pain so that Peter could be healed and accomplish his calling as a leader in the early church. His love finally broke Peter’s heart.
What if Jesus would have given up on Peter the night of the betrayal? Or if he would have asked only once, “Do you love me?” Jesus knew that He needed to persevere in speaking truth to Peter.
Like Jesus, servant leaders learn that love does not stop even when pain is exposed. They learn from Him to speak truth with perseverance.
Love and truth. Servant leaders are called to speak both in balance. And with Jesus as a guide, they learn that truth is spoken patiently, with kindness, without boasting, without pride, in ways that honor the other, without self-seeking, without anger, without a record of wrongs, with rejoicing, and always protecting, trusting, hoping and persevering!
Until next time, yours on the journey,
For further reflection and discussion:
- What is my natural tendency: to speak “truth” with perseverance or to give up when I don’t see results? What is the result in my leadership?
- When have I spoken truth, but didn’t persevere? What was the result in my own life and in the life of the person to whom I spoke?
- Can I think of another time when Jesus spoke truth with perseverance? What can I learn from His example?
- As you reflect on the past 15 issues which focused on speaking the truth in love, which area needs more attention? Take some time to look back and allow God to guide your response.