Paul continues to challenge servant leaders to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).But will speaking truth in love accomplish the change we desire? Since Paul recognizes that we might be tempted to avoid speaking the truth because we can’t predict the outcome, he also tells us that love always hopes (1 Corinthians 13:7).So, servant leaders are called to speak the truth with hope. What does it mean to hope as we speak truth?
We normally use the word ‘hope’ to mean a wish, something we desire to be true. A servant leader may desire to speak the truth in hope that the listener will respond with change. But this is not what Paul meant when he said that love always hopes. In the Bible, hope has a much stronger meaning. Biblical hope is a confident belief in what God has promised. We hope in what is not yet seen. The source of hope is not our desire but in God’s faithfulness. In the last issue we looked at speaking truth with trust. The focus of trust is on the other person; the focus of hope is on God.
So, as servant leaders learn to speak truth with hope, their foundation is not in what they ‘hope’ will happen. Instead their hope is in God’s ability to take truth and accomplish His purposes both in their lives and in the lives of the listener. They may or may not see the outcome, but servant leaders are called to speak truth with hope based on God’s faithfulness.
Speaking the truth with hope requires balance.
Some leaders may face a situation that requires change but hesitate to speak the truth. They conclude that since their hope is in God, they will keep quiet and allow God to produce the change. Their hope is in God, but they are not speaking truth!
A balance is needed. Love requires that truth be spoken with hope in God, not the person involved. Servant leaders learn that their hope in God’s work is combined with their willingness to speak truth.
Speaking the truth with hope reveals maturity.
Young leaders may speak truth to someone who walks away with no visible change. When nothing happens, the immature leader may speak truth again, but a little louder. They believe more energy on their part will accomplish greater change for the listener! Finally, in disappointment, the leader concludes that it’s better not to keep speaking the truth.
But with maturity, servant leaders learn to speak truth with hope. This hope is not in the person, but in God’s ability to use truth to do His work. They have a deep confidence that what is spoken in love will ultimately accomplish God’s purposes even if they don’t see it visibly. Servant leaders also recognize that part of God’s purposes may be developing patience in them as they wait to see what they hope for!
Speaking the truth with hope reflects Jesus.
Jesus speaks truth with hope when the rich young ruler comes to him and asks what he needs to do to inherit eternal life. Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me” (Mark 10:21).
Jesus could have tried to make the truth less demanding, but He loved the man too much to ignore the truth. He knew that the young ruler might turn away, as he did after hearing Jesus’ words. But Jesus spoke truth with hope, believing that at any time God could turn this difficult situation around.
Immediately He told His disciples, all things are possible with God (Mark 10:27).We do not know if change ever occurred for this young ruler. But Jesus spoke truth with a deep hope in God’s ability to change the situation. And He teaches servant leaders to do the same!
Until next time, yours on the journey,
For further reflection and discussion:
- What is my natural tendency: to speak ‘truth’ with hope in God or in the person to whom I’m speaking? What is the result in my leadership?
- When have I spoken truth, but not with hope in God? 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 showed His deep hope as He spoke the truth? What can I learn from His example?
Copyright, Global Disciples 2019.