In a previous ministry setting, my wife and I were the happy recipients of an annual invitation to dinner. In December of each year, a dear elderly couple took us to one of the city’s leading steakhouses. The couple’s aim was to bless us, and that they did. The meal was always sumptuous, the conversation encouraging, and the evening delightful in every way. Every way but one, that is.
Christmas was in the air, and in fact, we usually exchanged small gifts and reflected together on God’s goodness during the past year. As much as we enjoyed those memorable evenings, there came to be an awkward moment that my wife and I dreaded. As the meal wound down and we began to transition toward the door, the waitress would send us off with a smile and a parting “Happy holidays to you all.” Like clockwork, our friends would turn sour, scrunch up their faces, and blurt out, “Merry Christmas!” in response. The message was sent. Their point was made. The waitress would look bewildered and embarrassed, not quite sure what to make of the moment or the couple.
Granted, political correctness has run amok in our society, but I doubt that the world will be won over by terse, mean-spirited offerings of “Merry Christmas” during the yuletide season. Indeed, there is a better way for Christians to engage their neighbors, both those within and outside the body of Christ. Writing to the church at Ephesus, the Apostle Paul set forth God’s expectations for our speech, insisting that believers “[speak] the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15).
In Ephesians 4, the Apostle Paul outlines the offices with which Christ has gifted the church, and he maintains that these individuals are to “equip the saints for the work of service” (v. 12). Paul’s stated goal is a maturing church, spiritually stable and rooted in the truth. Such teaching fosters spiritual maturity and leads to Christian unity, as is fitting for the body of Christ. Paul argues that biblical truth is essential for spiritual growth, and Christian love and unity are indicators that such growth is taking place. Paul’s words to the Ephesian believers endure in relevance to every generation, especially ours.
Paul’s command to “[speak] the truth in love” seems both straightforward and noncontroversial, but we must acknowledge how countercultural these five words truly are. To “speak” reminds us that Christians are to communicate. We aren’t merely to insinuate or signal hard truths; we are to articulate them. We don’t simply allude to Scripture; we declare it. “The truth” reminds us that biblical revelation is inspired, inerrant, fixed, and knowable. Thus, biblical truth claims are God’s truth claims, and they are authoritative.