With the Lord’s authority I say this: Live no longer as the Gentiles do, for they are hopelessly confused. 18 Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against him. 19 They have no sense of shame. They live for lustful pleasure and eagerly practice every kind of impurity.
20 But that isn’t what you learned about Christ. 21 Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, 22 throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. 23 Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. 24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.
25 So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body. 26 And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 for anger gives a foothold to the devil. – Ephesians 4:17-27 [NLT]
I was struck today by the NLT’s translation of v. 25: “So stop telling lies.” This is not a sugar-coated, easier-to-swallow, form of confrontation. These words make the point straight to the point. Stop telling lies. Tell the truth (implied).
Truth must be told. Have you heard of the last ten percent? Biblically, people tend to think of the first ten percent: the tithe. That’s a good thing. God deserves our first and our best. We honor God with our first fruits – not with our leftovers. The last ten percent is another thing entirely. And it can be more challenging than the first ten percent.
When we interact with others it’s easy to say the safe things. We can talk about the weather, our health, our children, sports, and sometimes even religion and politics. Most of the time we tend toward safe conversations about these. We might amp it up when it comes to our favorite or least favorite sports team. We may get a bit excited about a political issue, or even a religious topic. But most often there is little anxiety in those conversations – unless we are hopelessly tied to a team or a tenet.
There are those deeper truths, however, that require that we take off our shoes because we might dare to tread on holy ground. It’s the difficult conversation with a friend about his incessant gossiping, or with a family member about her drinking. That’s when we step into that rarified air of deep truth spoken in humble love. That’s the last ten percent. It’s beyond telling someone they have a sprig of broccoli in his teeth. It’s beyond telling your friend that her slip is showing. It’s bringing a word of truth that touches the heart of another.
Sometimes such conversation takes a bad turn. Sometimes we may not say it as carefully or as lovingly as we ought. Sometimes people take offense. But the last ten percent is to be spoken in a sincere desire for the good of the other. It must be spoken in humility. It must be conveyed with love.
And when all that comes together, God’s work is revealed. It short-circuits anger. It throws the devil off balance. It builds up the body of Christ. It forges stronger bonds of friendship and fellowship.
The full truth is not merely brutal, it also abounds with grace. The full truth is embodied in Jesus: the one who forgive sinners. The one who prays for those who struggle. The one who died and rose again to bring us to God and allow us to embrace the truth of our need for God’s grace and the superabundance of that grace for all who embrace the Truth.