Updated: Oct 13, 2021
Have you ever struggled to tell someone something because:
you thought they'd be mad at you
you didn't want to be the mean or 'judge-y' friend
you were unsure of what they'd say or do
I feel you. I've been there. But one thing I've learned in studying scripture lately is that love in action is hard and sometimes requires us to do difficult things. One of those things is to speak the truth in love.
As I was reading a very familiar passage about the rich young man or ruler, I realized- Jesus did this.
17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.”
20 “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”
21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said.
“Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
In verse 21 we see that Jesus looked at this young man and his expression was one of love. We also see that he told him the truth and that truth was that he lacked something. There was an area where the young man was deficient and instead of stroking his ego or placating his emotions Jesus told him the truth- in love. As a part of that love, we see that Jesus not only told him that there was a problematic area in his life, but how to fix it. If we follow Jesus' example in this situation, we can see that identifying a problem and sharing it with someone is only one part of speaking truth in love. A second part is identifying options or ways to address the issue.
As we continue reading we see in the final verse that the young man left sad. He left disappointed. He left with a decision to make, but he also left with the truth- given to him by the Truth (John 14:6). I think it's interesting we don't know what decision the young man made. He could have dismissed what Jesus said. He could have thought about it and actually done it later. We don't know, but what we do know is that what happens with truth spoken in love is at the discretion of the recipient.