As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all [aspects] into Him who is the head, Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.
These verses are a continuation of the preceding thought. Paul had been writing about walking in a manner worthy of our calling and that God appointed different people to different offices within the body — apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers — in order that the whole body of Christ might be, as he concludes in v16, built up in love.
I could get caught up in the ideas of not being carried about by every wind of doctrine, but I feel that looking intently at the love of God and what it does and how it behaves is the best use of my time and energy. In these verses, love does two things: (1) speaks the truth and (2) builds the body.
That love speaks the truth should not surprise anyone, but I fear that it does. Too often, we are clichéd to death with “Love is blind.” One writer — C.S. Lewis — wrote that love is not blind, but that love sees more. I find this to be true as my wife and I are married for more time. We recently celebrated our anniversary and it occurred to me that I love my wife now more than ever. And the reason I can write that and not be one bit concerned that she might be hurt by it is that we spoke a bit about what that means. When we were first married, I was in love with her — no doubt — but that her was riddled with things I did not know and places where I had filled in the gaps with deductive reasoning and sometimes just plain fantasy. As the years have gone by, I have come to know the real woman and to love her as she is. The deductions and fantasies have been replaced with the flesh and blood of my living, breathing wife. There are still, I suspect, things I do not know or that I have filled in with some idea or another, but love will strip away those pretenses and gift me with the real woman in all her imperfect glory, just as love will do for her with the man she married. Love speaks the truth about those we love.
More, though, since John’s first epistle tells me — more than once — that God is love, I can also be assured that God will speak truth to me about where I stand with Him. He will not leave me to wonder whether or not I am wrong about something. He will make sure that I know the truth and thus be set free. God loves me too much to let me think anything other than what is true about myself.
My final thought on this first point is that I must, if I love others, also speak truth. I cannot bludgeon them with truth or I will kill the relationship. I cannot withhold truth, or I do not love. These are the errors too often made. I must love the person and tell them the truth. If I love someone who is in sin, then I must tell them blankly that God hates the thing that they are doing and that He loves them and wants to restore relationship with them. The folks running around yelling about how fill-in-the-blank is a sin too often forget to temper the truth (it is a sin) with love (God loves sinners and died to save them). The folks who run around trumpeting about how love wins often forget to mention that His victory is over the sin of which we need to repent.
If love is truthful, then something happens: the body of Christ grows and is built up. The body grows because love draws. The body is built up because truth purifies and strengthens. Let my love for others be a truthful love.