I sometimes find myself on one or the other end of the “truth in love” scale. Jesus never did. It didn’t matter if He was talking to an outcast, a politician, a cheat, a prostitute or one of many kinds of marginalized people of His day, He connected with the person at a heart level, a mile below the surface of their outward “stuff.” Did He end up speaking into their stuff? Yes, but it never came at the expense of diminishing their inherent worth. He NEVER de-valued the person. Jesus leads with love, not to coerce or manipulate, but because He truly loved. That happens to be THE most powerful (not to mention successful) forum for delivering truth.
I find most people are eager, even desperate to “grow;” to learn; to find answers for the troubling bits of their lives. They struggle to know who to listen to. They are slow to hang their coat anywhere they feel they might be betrayed. Trust is the thing they find lacking but most hope to discover; to be able to trust someone or something. When they do, they will often dive headlong in, soaking up all that is offered…. for better or for worst.
I’m commanded to love as Jesus did. And I want to. AND I find that in the face of a changing culture, progressively (even radically) shifting in its thinking and values, I struggle to know how to lead with love and tell the truth without tipping the scale to one side or the other. I’ve never felt my need for guidance from the Spirit of God as I do now.
Just as I have loved you,
you also are to love one another.
By this all people will know you are my disciples.
If I understand all mysteries and all knowledge,
but have not love, I am nothing.
Love reveals the heart of the giver, moves past the exterior of the recipient to reach the soul. Genuine love is, by nature unconditional, so anything it would learn on its way to the soul would in no way diminish its potency. It is steadfast. It is NOT informed by the details of a person. Rather it is LOVE that informs as the person is exposed to it. There is no more powerful, influential, life-altering gift than LOVE.
Truth comes to reveal darkness and bring light. It is a life-giving resource that every person must have to experience God and others as they were intended. It corrects, enlightens, enhances, grows, reveals, protects… It is the thing that SAVES the dying soul. It is truth that FREES us. It is truth that informs, conforms, reforms, and transforms.
Ends of the Spectrum
Love Without Truth
Sometimes I want to avoid truth for the sake of “love.” Sometimes I want very much to soften truth so that I or someone I care about might not have to live with difficulty or pain or some irreconcilable situation. My compassionate heart can be significantly tempted to turn a blind eye to truth.
For this temptation to morph into action, I have to alter something inwardly, either by not seeking truth or by subduing it. That’s dangerous. The other glaring discrepancy is that when I withhold truth for the sake of “love,” I actually cease to love. Love rejoices in the truth and believes all things (1 Corinthians 13). It is not possible to extend genuine love and withhold truth. The timing and manner of how truth gets revealed is another matter. It’s worth noting that sometimes the dispensing of truth is an action and not words.
Truth Without Love
Sometimes I want to deliver facts for the sake of justice, or I want to deliver truth concisely for the sake of expediency. What I communicate by handing out truth without the love component might support this argument: What’s critical is that they learn and correct. There’s something more important at stake than focusing on their heart. The burden to receive lies with the person needing enlightenment. This is what help looks like.
The error here is that if I do not “love” my brother, the love of God is not in me. The book of 1 John says I have no part in Him. All indications are that bringing my hard-line, non-loving self to a person will ensure I will never be heard by them.
I’m pretty sure that whether I’m apathetic or overly sympathetic, God will have something to say about my gross misrepresentation of His nature. Truth be known, whichever side I err on, I’m likely serving a personal agenda rather than the well-being of the one I’m “trying to help.”
Love without truth ends up not being genuine love. Truth without love ends up being undeliverable and more. Both damage. Both nullify the potential to bring the other. It’s a sure fail.
In this day and age, our culture purports inclusiveness and tolerance but is profoundly intolerant of those who would take a firm stance on issues informed by a Biblical world view. Part of why we’re at this place is because The Church (that’s me), has had this truth in love thing critically out of balance.
What if we became known as the “safe” ones; people who led with love and out of that love, weren’t afraid to say hard things…. What if we became known for championing any and every longing soul, desperately wanting people to live to the fullest, enjoying the richest of communion with Jesus and His family. In a phrase: Grace leads – Truth follows – Love covers it all.
Love rejoices in the truth.
Whoever does not love abides in death.
Love one another.