This life is messy.
Have you ever noticed that relationships are messy? Sure, we try really hard for things to stay neat and clean, without conflict or differences of opinion or values that clash… but if we are honest, all relationships have some dissonance.
As a pastor, I have the opportunity to pray for, coach, counsel and console a lot of people who are trying to navigate difficult relationships. So often we find ourselves quoting Ephesians 4:14-15 (NLT), which says,
“14 Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth.
15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.”
As we grow and mature as followers of Jesus, we can measure our growth by our ability to “speak the truth in love.” Many love, tolerate, put up with others but are afraid to tell the truth and keep precious facts or perceptions to themselves. Others beat others up with the truth without any regard for the feelings of the person they are talking to. Neither approach is a mature response that reflects God’s great grace and truth.
Things can be messy when we speak the truth in love. People can choose to pick up an offense or receive what is said. Honest relationships have push and pull, give and take. Real opinions are shared and concerns for the other person are raised. Our culture preaches tolerance; which is really love without truth. I would argue that suppressing the truth is not loving at all. It says that I am more concerned about your potential hurt feelings than helping you to grow, change, adapt, and move forward. It is a fearful heart posture that selfishly avoids conflict and the potential loss of relationship.
There is a mutual submission and humility that the New Testament calls for that desires the truth being spoken in a very loving manner.
Ephesians 5:21 (NLT) says, “21 And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” This heart posture welcomes constructive criticism and others to instruct and teach from wisdom, experience or even supernatural revelation. This is not a guarded and skeptical heart attitude, but an open one.
Although I am eager and willing to learn from others, it doesn’t mean I have turned my brain off and I can be easily swayed. It means that I honor others by truly listening to them and “weighing” what they have to say. I consider everyone I come into contact an opportunity to hear from God, that God can and does speak through others – even those who don’t follow Him yet. If God can speak through the mouth of a donkey (Numbers 22), certainly He can speak through any person I meet along the way.
So, real relationships are messy. Our relationship with God can be messy as well. There can be frustration and confusion and doubt in our pursuit of Jesus. All those things need not be negative – even doubt can drive us toward getting more clarity and causing us to ask clarifying questions about our faith.
There were 13 people who “chose Jesus” this past Sunday in our worship services. For several of them, this process of beginning a relationship with Jesus has been messy. It has caused them to rethink how they relate to their families, coworkers and roommates. It has kept them up late at night considering what this decision means and wondering, “How will my life change now?”
I don’t have the answers for them, but as long as I am speaking the truth in love, I can guarantee thing – whatever your life becomes, it will be messy.