Do you ever speak the truth like a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal? We are simply making noise when we speak the truth without love. It is hard to hear the truth above the clatter. As believers, we are commanded to speak the truth in love. The word “love” in this verse refers to God’s agape love. Therefore, we are to speak the truth with the same type of love God has for us. We are called to “walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us”. Speaking the truth with Christ-like love is sacrificially loving others for their highest good by speaking truthful words which may wound them or even endanger our relationship with them.
Loving like Christ involves loving one another enough to speak the truth they need to hear even if they do not receive it at the time. It means needing them less and loving them more. “Needing them less” can mean letting go of the need for their approval. We can need their friendship so much that we live in fear of their rejection, anger, or hurt feelings. “Loving them more” means loving them enough to risk our relationship with them because we desire God’s best for them. Rather than concealing words of truth, a faithful friend will be open with her love for her precious sister even if her words may wound her friend for a time.
Speaking the truth in love is like being the watchman at the tower. We see a danger our loved ones do not, and we are called to plead with them in love. However, it is not the watchman’s job to force the people to heed his warning. The hearer must choose how to respond. Also, our job does not include condemning them or fixing them. Our responsibility is to speak the truth in love, and we rely on the Holy Spirit, not us, to convict their hearts. The watchman’s duty is one we all carry for one another.
This duty is to be approached with much prayer and reliance on God’s Spirit and His Word. We are helping others see themselves more clearly in the light of God’s Word. It is not our opinion of them that matters, but it is God’s. Let us hold the mirror of the Word before our loved ones and allow God to use us as His instrument to remove some of the self-deception they have in their hearts. For example, a dear friend may not see how she often speaks without really listening to others and how her reckless, thoughtless words pierce those she is near. Another more serious example may be someone who is in bondage to some type of life-dominating sin such as substance abuse (Matthew 18:15-17). As we hold the Word before them, let us remember how we also can be self-deceived and we require others to shine His Truth into our hearts.
With this in mind, we humbly need to examine our own heart before God. Jesus calls us hypocrites if we do not take the log out of our own eye before we help others take the speck out of theirs. We are speaking as one sinner to another. They are in process of becoming more like Christ just like we are, and their transformation will not be instantaneous. Let us have grace for them. For those who are receiving the truth in love, let us have grace for those speaking it to us. Remember, they are in process too.
 Welch, Edward T., When People Are Big and God Is Small [New Jersey: P&R Publishing, 1997], 183.