If you hang around churches long enough you’ll probably hear people talking about speaking the truth in love. The idea comes from this passage.
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
(Eph 4:15-16 ESV)
According the translators of the NET we are missing a nuance with the typical English translation here. They go with the following:
But practicing the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Christ, who is the head. From him the whole body grows, fitted and held together through every supporting ligament. As each one does its part, the body grows in love.
(Eph 4:15-16 NET.)
They went with “practicing” rather than “speaking.” Why?
The meaning of the participle ??????????? (al?theuonte) is debated. In classical times the verb could mean “to speak the truth,” or “to be true, to prove true.”… In the NT the only other place the verb appears is in Gal_4:16 where it means “to speak the truth.” However, in Ephesians the concept of “being truthful” is the best sense of the word. In contrast to the preceding verse, where there are three prepositional phrases to denote falsehood and deceit, the present word speaks of being real or truthful in both conduct and speech. Their deceit was not only in their words but also in their conduct. In other words, the believers’ conduct should be transparent, revealing the real state of affairs, as opposed to hiding or suppressing the truth through cunning and deceit.
Perhaps the real thrust of what Paul is saying is that in order to grow in maturity we must be transparent, honest and straightforward in our words and deeds. This would include our faults and weaknesses. That is a challenging take on this passage and I think it fits very well. In my church experience people don’t grow until they can be honest with themselves and others. People aren’t honest unless they know they are loved and feel like they won’t be judged if they reveal their weaknesses and faults.