A Word from Bob: Thanks for joining me for Part 2 of our series on Gospel Conversations: The Gospel for Everyday Life. You can read Part 1 here: Where Do You Fit into God’s Mission? I’m developing these posts from my latest book, Gospel-Conversations: How to Care Like Christ.
What to Do After the Hug
Back about a decade ago, I did seminars around the country entitled, What to Do After the Hug. The title conveyed the reality that while many people care deeply, after we hug or express empathy and concern, we’re not sure what to do or say next. We’re not sure how to help—how to care like Christ.
I’d like us to notice something about that title. It is not, What to Say After the Hug. Instead, it is, What to Do After the Hug. Now obviously, what we say is vital. The title of my latest book makes that clear—Gospel Conversations. But before we say anything, it is our life that is most important—how we live.
The Bible makes the identical point. Let’s take a look at Ephesians 4:15 to demonstrate the truth that caring like Christ begins first with living like Christ even before we are speaking like Christ.
Speaking the Truth in Love or Living Gospel Truth in Love?
Many modern Bible versions translate Ephesians 4:15 like this, “Speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him, who is the Head, that is, Christ.”
The Apostle Paul selects a rare Greek word—in fact he really coins a word—that would best be translated as “truthing.” That is, we are to embody truth—gospel truth—in love. Are lives are to be a living, breathing, walking model and example of the gospel lived out.
The Greek word for “truthing” that Paul uses means transparent, truthfulness, genuine, authentic, reliable, sincere. It describes the person who ministers from a heart of integrity and Christlike, grace-oriented love. It pictures the person whose relational style is transparent and trustworthy. The tense and context indicates that the body of Christ should continually, actively, and collectively be embodying truth in love as it walks together in intimate, vulnerable connection.
Paul likely had in mind Psalm 15 where the Psalmist asks, “Who may dwell in your sanctuary?” He answers: “He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart” (Psalm 15:2). Who can serve in God’s sanctuary, the church—the one who embodies the truth in relationships.
Gospel Truthing in Love
While “truthing” means more than speaking, it does not mean less than speaking. While it means more than sheer factual content, it does not mean less than the gospel fully applied. Paul uses the identical Greek word in Galatians 4:16. There he is clearly speaking of preaching, teaching, and communicating the truth of the gospel of Christ’s grace (salvation) applied to daily growth in Christ (progressive sanctification).
Combine Galatians 4:16 with Ephesians 4:15, both in context, and we find an amazing description of gospel-centered biblical counseling, of gospel conversations, of the personal ministry of the Word. Truthing in love involves:
Communicating gospel truth from my heart to your heart through how I live out Christ’s gospel, how I relate to you with Christ’s grace, and how I speak to you with Christ’s wisdom.
It’s the old adage that people don’t care how much we know until they know how much we care.
We’re just adding to it: people will know how well we truly know the gospel by how well we care like Christ.
An Example from My Life
Decades ago, when I was first being trained as a biblical counselor, I was “trying out my counseling skills” on my wife, Shirley. She made a wise, honest, grace-filled comment to me that has stayed with me for three decades.
“Bob, I don’t need a counselor right now, I need my husband right now.”
I was practicing skills from an empty, non-grace, low-gospel heart. Shirley longed for her husband to embody the gospel, to live the gospel, to give her grace from a grace-saturated heart.
The Point for All Our Lives and Relationships
So…before we expend much time and energy in this series talking about gospel conversations, we each need to be asking whether Christ’s gospel of grace is saturating our hearts. Otherwise, we will apply these principles of gospel conversations more like powerless skills rather than like Christ-empowered truthing and loving.
Think of it like this. The Bible often uses the phrase, “let your conversation be…” That’s the way we should be thinking about gospel conversations—in the biblical sense of a way of life, a way of relating. We might say it like this:
Let your gospel conversation—way of life—be saturated with gospel truth and love so that your actual conversations—the words you share—will be saturated with gospel grace and power.
Join the Conversation
Are you and I skilled at speaking the truth in love, or are we skilled at living gospel truth in Christlike love?