If you have been a Christian for any length of time I am sure that the phrase “speaking the truth in love” is one that you are no doubt familiar with. The Apostle Paul twice in Ephesians and once in Colossians states clearly the need for love/graciousness to accompany our truth-telling. He states:
Ephesians 4:15, 25: “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.”
Colossians 4:6: “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”
In Graciousness: Tempering Truth With Love author John Crotts seeks to provide readers with a “wide variety of practical methods for cultivating graciousness in the Christian life. This will equip Christians who are passionately committed to truth to put on a corresponding Christlike heart of graciousness.” I know that this has always been a struggle of mine. Being passionate for truth has never been difficult for me. Gracious speech, on the other hand, is definitely an area that I struggle with. Crotts defines gracious speech as “words and tones marked by pleasantness, kindness, the will to help, to encourage, and to convey regard. It is pleasantness; it is being kind; it is having a desire to help and to be a blessing to another person.” To help and to bless the other person are key components to this definition. We are not to use truth to club our opponent (either unbeliever or fellow believer holding to a different doctrinal position) into submission. This isn’t seeking to help another but rather being a truth-bully. Thankfully we have the example of Christ as someone who was passionate about defending truth but never got sinfully angry. The difference between Christ and us is that often times we can be proud in defending truth but lacking love. Crotts states the clear danger that we face saying that “people with great zeal to take in and understand God’s truth who do not then work that truth out in their character and within loving relationships will develop a stagnation of spiritually toxic pride and ultimately spiritual death.”
Crotts shows great balance throughout this book. He never once gives the impression that we should abandon truth, or even soften our convictions about important doctrinal matters. Rather, he constantly calls the reader to be balanced, or to use the wording from his subtitle, to be tempered. And when we fail to be gracious with others in our speech Crotts clearly calls it sin, not allowing excuses to creep in. He says, “Repentance is not a trivial matter; lacking graciousness is not a small issue. Every heart sin originating and sustaining the sinful words and tones coming from a person’s mouth must be dealt with. Instead of following the instinct to justify an angry outburst because of outward circumstances (including the actions and attitudes of the other participants in a discussion), Christians desiring to become like Christ must acknowledge their anger, lack of love, and pride. While others committed sins by provoking you, the Lord holds each Christian responsible for his or her sins.”
One of the clearest motivations that Crotts gives for being gracious is recognizing the worth of those whom we interact with. He states, “A great beginning for Christians seeking to become kind is to have a heightened awareness of the value of the people with whom they interact. People’s perspectives of others can dramatically differ from God’s evaluation of those special creatures made in His image.” This has been one of the most helpful truths for me to focus on over the last few years. All people are created in the image of God and thus have dignity, value, and worth. No matter who I am talking to I ought to treat them this way instead of as an opponent that I’m simply trying to defeat or win an argument with.
This book has been a great blessing to me. With its concise size, I am sure that it will be a book that I return to in the future to encourage and sharpen me.
I received a copy of this book from Reformation Heritage Books in exchange for an honest review.
Content originally published February 11, 2018 on Joey Parker’s blog “So Many Books, So Little Time”.