For many years I lived in New Jersey where we were blessed with a heavy dose of Italy. There were so many Italians in our area, it should come as no surprise that we had so many Italian restaurants. And what’s their favorite dressing on a dinner salad? Of course, Italian dressing. Actually, I didn’t know what Italian dressing was for much of my life. I always heard it called by the ingredients that make it up – vinegar and oil. And frankly, I’m sure glad they put them together. Can you imagine a salad with just vinegar dressing? You’d bite into your salad and your salad would bite you back! But then I couldn’t get very excited about a salad that just had oil dressing on it either. That slimy covering…that’s not going to be very appetizing. Vinegar without oil, oil without vinegar – not very appealing. But put them together, hey, you’ve got a pretty tasty combination there!

I’m Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about “Vinegar and Oil Relationships.”

Now, let’s think about the most important relationships in your life for a couple of minutes; especially the ones that are a little strained or distant, superficial right now. Consider the possibility that some of your relationships have a little too much vinegar and not enough oil, or a little too much oil and not enough vinegar.

By now you have every reason to be asking, “What in the world is this man talking about?” Well, here’s our word for today from the Word of God – a plain-spoken blueprint for healthy relationships. In fact, in five simple words, God gives us the two ingredients that make a marriage strong, a parent-child relationship, a friendship, a romance, a church, a ministry.

Ephesians 4:15-16 – “Speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Him who is the head, that is, Christ. From Him, the whole body joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love.” Now there are some key words here; words we’d all like to have describe our important relationships I think: growing up, joined together, held together, building up in love. And how can you get along with people like this? A five-word secret of good relationships, “Speaking the truth in love.”

There it is – the vinegar and oil of a healthy relationship. “The truth” – let’s call that the vinegar. The oil – that’s the love. See, together, they’re a life-building, life-changing combination. But one without the other can create serious problems. If you’re like most people, you’re probably stronger in one of those than the other. Maybe you’re a person who’s straightforward, you’re outspoken. People know where you stand. But your truth without the oil of love may have such bite that people may sometimes spit out the very truth you want them to hear.

Now, if your communication is too much vinegar, would you ask our gentle Savior to wrap your truth in more tenderness? To help you affirm and praise people at least as much as you confront them? To let people know you love them at the same time you’re confronting them with the truth?

Now you may be saying, “Well, I don’t give people that biting feeling. I’m smooth and gentle like oil.” Your strength is more on the love side, but many people who are loving and encouraging can sometimes do it at the expense of the truth. You won’t confront, you postpone dealing with hard issues which only postpones the inevitable and sometimes causes an eventual explosion. Will you ask your Savior, who is the Truth, to help you deal with hard issues, to speak up for the truth, to confront tensions and problems when they’re small?

So often, the “truth champions” don’t say it with love. And the “love champions” don’t say the truth. But God calls us to both! If there are problems in a relationship right now, it may very well be that there’s been too much truth and not enough love, or so much love without dealing with truth. It takes both the vinegar of the truth and the oil of love to keep a relationship healthy. Vinegar alone? Uh-uh. Oil alone? No way. It’s the vinegar and oil together that makes a wonderful combination.