But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ. — Ephesians 4:15
Paul wrote these words to show the practical way to fulfill God’s purpose in the church. The theme of unity, maturity and renewal of life is all over Ephesians 4. I believe Paul’s message applies in today’s church.
In my experience, speaking the truth is not easy — let alone speaking the truth in love. What we believe to be the truth might differ from someone else’s belief. We all have preconceptions and biases about almost everything. We have our own biblical interpretations that we claim to be the truth.
What is the truth? When I wrestle with this question, a word comes to mind: chavrusa. I heard this word from a rabbi. Chavrusa is an Aramaic word that means two students learning as partners. They read a text together and talk about it — a conversation or even an argument that gives insight into the meaning of a text. It is a common practice in Judaism.
This process is familiar to us in Anabaptist and Mennonite settings, too. We read Scripture together and discern as a group.
But what about the discernment before the discernment — when we choose the passage of Scripture to study? For the sake of unity, we may avoid a passage that seems too controversial.
Then we turn back to our individual approach to studying Scripture. We cite authors and scholars who support our interpretation and ignore the rest. The church becomes polarized, and the body of Christ is torn apart.
Human beings tend to gather with people who look alike and think the same. When we study Scripture, we need to break out of the safety of sameness. We need humility about our own beliefs and respect for others’ beliefs. We need to allow others to challenge our preconceptions. This is the way to gain more understanding. It is not easy.
My wife, Marina, and I recently had a conversation about antiracism and racial justice. In Indonesia, the topic of race and racism is called SARA: Suku, Agama, Ras, Antar Golongan — “tribe, religion, race and groups” in English. People usually avoid this topic. It is taboo even to bring it up.
Indonesians in general, and we as a couple, are not alone in our discomfort with this kind of conversation. But when we accept that our knowledge is limited and that we need each other — discerning together, journeying together, telling our stories and seeing God at work — I believe the truth will set us free.
Proverbs 27:17 affirms that interaction with others produces clarity and wisdom: One person “sharpens the wits of another” as “iron sharpens iron.”
My wife and I have different approaches to easier topics than racism. We continue to look for new insights, which might or might not fit the frame of thought for both of us. We are committed to a struggle to find the truth.
We try to manage our expectations, because the truth may not come in a linear process. It may require journeys down different paths of discovery and learning.
We appreciate each other’s insights and will continue the conversation. We have agreed that our journeys and struggles are unique, as everyone’s are. We cannot speak for others, and we want to continue to be challenged by each other.
Jesus said, “Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them” (Matthew 18:19-20).
Seeking the truth and speaking the truth in love are not individual actions. They are relational. They are dialogue and not monologue, collaboration and not separation.
Having the humility that God will show us the truth gives us hope for a long and possibly difficult conversation. We will not agree on all things all at once. But we believe that as we agree even on small things, God is present.
As Paul wrote to the Ephesians, we must grow up into Jesus in every way. Praise be to God!