Truth matters. There is no question about that. But oftentimes, how that truth is communicated makes a world of difference. We may have something that we need to say — whether by way of confronting, teaching, rebuking, encouraging, directing — but our words will fall on deaf ears if we approach that individual with with a mean, harsh, judgmental, or all-around unloving attitude.
Truth matters. How we communicate that truth matters too.
Author John Crotts reminds us of this truth in a new little book titled Graciousness: Tempering Truth with Love. In this book, Crotts reminds us that “God cares about more than just the words you say. He also cares about how you say those words” (2). As Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:15, we are to “speak the truth in love.”
As followers of Christ and children of God, we cannot afford to forsake any of those 3 crucial components in that verse.
We must speak — we cannot remain silent.
And we must speak the truth. We are surrounded by thousands of voices in our world speaking a variety of empty uselessness. But as followers of Christ, we possess the truth as found in His Word, and we must speak it.
But while we must speak, and we must speak the truth, we must also speak that truth in love. Truth communicated in a judgmental, hateful, mean-spirited attitude will inevitably fall upon deaf ears.
John Crotts’ new book is a great help for us in obeying this verse. In this book, he helps us think practically how to do this — On a day-to-day basis, in our everyday lives and in the context of our churches, how do we speak God’s truth in love? How do we communicate truth with a gracious attitude?
[Tweet God cares about more than just the words you say. He also cares about how you say those words]
What Exactly Is Graciousness?
To begin the book, Crotts includes a couple of introductory chapters where he defines what he means by graciousness and then answers why you and I should care about this topic. So what exactly is graciousness, or gracious speech? Crotts defines it: “Gracious speech is words and tones marked by pleasantness, kindness, the will to help, to encourage, and to convey regard” (11). Graciousness is a broad term that parallels the biblical ideas of love, kindness, gentleness, and patience. By insisting on gracious speech, Crotts is by no means saying that there is never a place for a rebuke or strong biblical admonishment. Rather, even a rebuke or an admonishment should be done with kindness, care, concern, and love for the individual. Crotts says:
“The Bible’s standard for speech is incredibly high. Every word that comes across a Christian’s lips must be infused with grace in order to build up the people who hear. There are no vacations or even coffee breaks permitted in order to unleash harsh, critical, unkind, or harmful speech — a believer’s mouth must always be on duty, speaking good words in good ways at the right time” (16).
[Tweet Just as God graciously revealed His truth to rebellious, unworthy creatures, He expects His truth to be spread through gracious men and women]
After defining graciousness, Crotts moves to the biblical examples of Jesus and Paul. In Jesus, we see the perfect, sinless example of what it looks like to speak the truth in love. We can look to every single one of Jesus’ interactions and trust that what he said and how the Bible says he said it is perfectly loving and gracious. Even when we read the Gospels and Jesus doesn’t “seem” gracious in our estimation (see pages 37-41), we can learn from Him what it looks like to communicate hard truth in a loving, gracious manner.
With the Apostle Paul, we have a man who was a sinner saved by grace just like you and I. Therefore, there are times where Paul was not the perfect example of graciousness (Acts 15:26-40; 23:3). However, we can be encouraged by Paul’s example of a man who grew in grace and love in his ministry. Additionally, we can learn an incredible amount through the God-inspired teachings of Paul in his letters on what it means and looks like to speak the truth in love in all aspects of our life.
The second half of the book is the “meat” of the book. There is far too much in these chapters to recount here, but let me just tell you that this second half of the book is well worth the price to buy it. There is incredibly helpful, practical advice on dealing with an ungrateful heart, seeing how the Gospel should impact our speech, seeing the role of community and the local church in cultivating such graciousness, understanding how we are to both seek the Lord to work in us in this regard but also build in discipline and work on our end as well, etc.
The reader who truly wishes to grow in speaking the truth in love will find ample wisdom and practical lessons in this chapter to put into practice over the course of a lifetime.
Whether it be a zealous new Christian who is discovering Biblical truth and wants to make sure everyone knows it, or a cranky old curmudgeon who never seems happy, or anyone in between, this topic of biblically gracious speech is one that each and every one of us needs to ponder. We can, and should, all grow in our love for one another — and that includes, and begins with, how we communicate to one another.
I would wholeheartedly recommend this book and strongly recommend that you get a copy for yourself (and perhaps another for a friend). This would make an excellent discipleship study, small group discussion, or just personal study and reflection. No matter how you use it, I trust that you will find this book to be incredibly practical and helpful for you to not only speak the truth, which is indispensable, but to speak the truth in love. As Crotts reminds us throughout this book, “God cares about more than just the words you say. He also cares about how you say those words” (2).
In accordance with FTC regulations, I would like to thank Reformation Heritage Books and Cross Focused Reviews for providing me a review copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.