Speaking the Truth, with Rejoicing

When we speak “the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15), the words we say are important. But Paul also reminds us that the attitude of our heart matters as we speak. He says a heart of love “does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:6).This is a reminder that when we speak it is possible for us to say the right words but have the wrong attitude in our hearts.

Paul warns against delighting in what is evil. Servant leaders do not rejoice in the sin or wrong in another persons’ life. But they rejoice with the truth! Servant leaders rejoice when the truth can be spoken and joyfully anticipate a response to the truth which will bring greater freedom and joy to that person’s soul.

Rejoicing as we speak truth delights in the opportunity to speak into the life of another person for their good. It reflects a focus on the other rather than self. It is this focus on the other which reveals a true heart of love and allows the servant leader to speak the truth with rejoicing.

Speaking the truth with rejoicing requires balance.

Some leaders may find a mistake or wrong in someone’s life and find delight in exposing it, feeling justified that the ‘truth has been revealed.’ There may be secret pride in the leader feeling that in some way he/she is better than the other because a wrong has been revealed. The words spoken may be true, but they are not loving.

Other leaders may see the wrong and not be willing to speak the truth because they don’t want to appear to be “delighting in evil.” This leader only wants to focus on the positive in the other and rejoice in what is right. Paul tells us that a balance is needed. Truth should be spoken but with the right attitude. A servant leader carefully guards against delighting in evil but rejoices with the truth.

Speaking the truth with rejoicing reveals maturity.

Learning to rejoice at the right things reflects our level of maturity. Paul made it clear that as we learn how to speak the 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). This growth is a process and takes time to develop.

An immature leader may see the need to speak truth but do it out of a sense of duty or obligation, as one of the tasks of leadership. This is especially true when the truth which needs to be spoken may be painful or difficult for the other person to receive. This leader may focus on what it will ‘cost’ to take the time and energy to speak the truth. The focus is on oneself, not the other person.

As leaders mature, Christ changes their hearts to be more loving and to focus on the needs of the other instead of self. Even when truth needs to expose something wrong or sinful in another person’s life, the servant leader does not rejoice in what is wrong but finds delight in helping the other person to grow by speaking the truth with love.

Speaking the truth with rejoicing reflects Jesus.

Jesus never delighted in evil but rejoiced in speaking the truth. After Simon Peter acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah, Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven” (Matthew 16:17).

Jesus was able to focus on the blessing for Simon Peter and rejoiced in what God had revealed to him. Jesus was not envious that Peter had received this revelation, He rejoiced! And although Peter’s revelation was all about Jesus’ identity, Jesus does not focus on Himself, but on Peter. He continued to talk about Peter’s destiny to become a significant leader in the church. Servant leaders learn from Jesus to rejoice as they speak the truth in love.

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

For further reflection and discussion:

  • What is my natural tendency, to “delight in evil” or “rejoice in the truth”? What is the result in my leadership?   
  • When have I spoken truth, but was inwardly proud that I was able to expose the wrong in the other person? What was the result in my own life and in the life of the person with whom I spoke?  
  • Read Matthew 16:13-23 and reflect more on Jesus’ communication with Peter. What can I observe about how Jesus kept the focus on Peter instead of Himself? Am I able to do this when someone gives me a compliment? What can I learn about speaking the truth in love from Jesus’ rebuke of Peter in verse 23? Was this spoken in love?
  • Can I think of another time when Jesus rejoiced as He spoke truth? What can I learn from His example?

Copyright, Global Disciples 2019

Speaking the Truth, with No Record of Wrongs

When I’ve done my best to speak truth in love to a good friend, but they continue repeating the same mistakes, what does it mean to respond in the way of Jesus? Paul clearly commands us to speak the “truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). But then he clarifies that love “keeps no record of wrongs (1 Corinthians 13:5). So, servant leaders are called to speak the truth in love with no record of wrongs. This is not easy, especially when the person has wronged you several times.

Speaking the truth with no record of wrongs requires balance.

Some leaders will focus on the truth: that wrongs have been done and they have been repeated! When the focus is on the “record of wrongs,” leaders respond with their own emotion of pain for the wrongs done against them. This is often an angry outburst which includes a reference to the number of wrongs: “You hurt me four times now; enough is enough!” In this response, the focus is on how the wrong has impacted the leader, not on how to help the other overcome their mistakes.

Other leaders may focus on not keeping a record of wrongs, but in doing so, they do not speak the truth! Their response after several mistakes is, “Oh, that’s nothing major, don’t worry about it!” They do not acknowledge the wrong and therefore don’t help the person to improve.

Servant leaders recognize that a balance is needed. Truth must be expressed, but the focus should not be on the number of times a mistake has been made. Remembering wrongs and keeping a record of the wrongs are two different things. Leaders cannot choose to forget what has happened in the past. But they can consciously choose not to allow the ‘record’ of wrongs to dictate their current emotions or response.

A healthy response may be to say to the person, “This has happened several times now, can we talk about what is causing this?” Here, the truth is addressed, but without the accusation of the past failures. Servant leaders learn to focus on the needs of the other to grow rather than their own need to recall!

Speaking the truth with no record of wrongs reveals maturity.

It is natural to keep a list of offenses against us—we do it without training! When the offense of the other person is repeated, we naturally begin to react with strong emotions, often anger, towards the person. Then our response may contain ‘truth’ but it is shaped by the record of wrongs. Paul would remind us that this is not love. Our focus in on self and retaliation rather than on helping the other person.

It takes maturity of character not to use that list of wrongs against another person. Mature leaders speak what the other needs to hear, not what they feel like saying! Servant leaders grow as they realize that the ‘truth’ of their own condition is that they have also repeated mistakes often and have been forgiven often. As Jesus shapes their hearts, they can extend the same grace to others.

Speaking the truth with no record of wrongs reflects Jesus.

Jesus is the one who taught us to forgive others at least 77 times! (See Matthew 18:22.) But He was not encouraging us to remind people of the number of times they failed!

He demonstrated this when He greatly desired the prayers of His three closest disciples. They failed once, then twice and then a third time when Jesus comes back, and they are sleeping again. Returning the third time, he said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!” (Mark 14:41-42).

I would have been tempted to respond with only the truth, “You’ve had three chances to pray for me and you have failed me three times!” Or I might have minimized the wrong and said only, “Let’s go!”

Jesus spoke truth when He said, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough!” But He didn’t remind them of how many times they had done wrong. He didn’t react from His own disappointment and didn’t need to remind them that this was their failure number three! He spoke truth with no record of wrongs.

Servant leaders learn from Jesus to speak truth with no record of wrongs.

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

For further reflection and discussion:

  • What is my natural tendency: to speak “truth” by reminding others of their past record or to avoid the painful truth from the past? What is the result in my leadership?
  • When have I spoken truth, but also reacted to others because of their previous mistakes? What was the result in my own life and in the life of the person to whom I spoke? Do I need to ask forgiveness from that person?
  • What other times in Jesus’ life and ministry reveal that Jesus did not keep a record of wrongs? How did He speak truth in those situations without reminding people of their history? What can I learn from Him that I need to practice in a current relationship?
  • We’ve been looking at many ways we are called to speak truth in love and we have a few more to examine. In what ways is my speech changing?

Copyright, Global Disciples 2019.