Many years ago a parishioner mentioned to me one Sunday morning that while she loved her church, she wished it could be a bit more like her AA group. The people at church were nice, welcoming, and supportive but the people in her AA group were always keeping it real. She loved being a part of a community where honesty was the preferred currency and there was absolutely no pretense. In her AA group she felt the scripture come alive where it says, “speak truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15).
Who will be completely honest with you? I am convinced that we desire authentic relationships without posturing or pretext. As 1 Corinthians 13 puts it, we want to know fully even as we are fully known. There is an innate longing to be understood and embraced. In the scripture this acceptance often comes coupled with a call; an invitation to grow. The passage in Ephesians that invites us to speak truth in love to one another is set within a larger conversation about living into the calling we have received (Ephesians 4:1-6). The goal of the truth we share with one another is the strengthening of our character and the deepening of our compassion. Proverbs 27:17 puts it this way, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” We speak truth to one another because our goal is to see one another grow in faith, hope, and love.
The Apostle Paul’s admonition to “speak truth” does not give us carte blanche to say whatever opinion we hold as though blurting out the first thing that comes into our mind is truth. No, the scripture sets truth-telling in the larger context of relationship, of community, and ultimately of love.
I’m not convinced that Sunday worship services need to look like AA meetings (although I think worship services with an inclusive nature and personal testimonies are compelling). I do think though that within the programs, meeting, and ministries of the church we are called to find friends who are honest in love and to be the kind of friend who is honest in love. As a church we are called to create a culture of honesty so that, as it says in Ephesians 4:15 and 16, “we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love.”