Monday, July 29, 2013

Speaking the Truth in Love

On the heels of a post on truth-telling as the value-added of campus ministry (and Christian community, broadly), I read this quote from a good friend's blog, that I think helpfully furthers the conversation; it speaks to the mutual interdependence of truth and love. The quote comes from a letter of Karl Barth:
I do not detect in your work the slightest trace of what is called in holy scripture the peace of God that passes all understanding. 
You say many correct things. But what is correct is not always true. Only what is said kindly is true. You do not speak kindly in a single line.
"Speaking the truth in love" (Eph. 4:15) is a value at the heart of many, especially more evangelical, traditions of the Christian faith, and it is a great gift and reminder to the universal Church; it is the presentation of a wonderful opportunity. Sometimes, though, the Church misrepresents the words behind this value when we mistakenly present truth and love as opposing weights on opposite ends of a balance. But Barth reminds us that truth requires love for its very truthfulness, and love requires truth for its loveliness.  

During my time at Duke Divinity School, the image of friends sharpening one another "as iron sharpens iron" (Prov. 27:17) was one offered those of us within the Anglican/Episcopal House of Studies. It was invitation to an imagination toward holy friendship with one another. Importantly, the holy friendships to which we were invited located "speaking the truth in love"within its context in Ephesians, as oriented toward the end of building up the Body, "until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ." 

This is how the desert fathers came to teach that my salvation is caught up with my neighbor;  that truth for others can never be abstracted from the love that is both my calling and God's gift to me; that truth is never not of one piece with my own patient, faltering steps - my discipleship - following the one who alone says in truth to his friends, "I am the truth and the way and the life."

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