For the truth to flow lovingly, we must understand and appreciate each other first.
Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love—1 Corinthians 16:13-14
Whether it’s two of us or twelve of us or more, when we gather in Christian community, we’re to speak truth to one another, truth motivated by love (Ephesians 4:15). Truth in love—it sounds simple, actually . . . straightforward. And sometimes it is. Many times, though, it’s anything but simple or straightforward. And, in those times, we men don’t typically fare too well. I mean, the mess and complexity of life can make speaking truth in love daunting and uncomfortable—for example, when it requires we challenge a brother or admonish him; when it requires we call-out a brother or call him back from sin. So it’s a rare group of men indeed who are willing to speak truth in love even when it’s hard. We’ve got to be that kind of men.
For us to be that kind, though, we must first be another kind: men who take time to know one another. You see, except in a few cases, it’s irresponsible to “speak truth” to any man without knowing his story. We’re one body, all following our King, Jesus Christ, but we’re also all different, with different designs, different functions, different experiences (Romans 12:4-5). For community to work, for truth to flow properly, we must understand and appreciate each other. And we begin by telling our stories. If we don’t begin there, we’re likely to damage community and to do damage to each other—like when we give advice and try to “fix” a person, or a situation, we don’t fully understand.
Okay, so what do we do?
Do you know your brothers’ stories? If you haven’t already, give each man an hour—at least—to tell his story, completely. Have each man start at the beginning and bring his story current. Encourage transparency. Ask no questions. Give no advice. Just listen.