Truth and love have been pitted against one another in recent years and especially in the church. However, it is not only in the church but deep within the circles of Christianity’s critics. Some statements fall along the lines of, “Christians should start learning to love more instead of speaking the truth!” Or “Love is what we need, not more of your truth.” Personally, not many people have said these things directly to me. A lot of these things are said to me by my non-christian friends who are complaining about Christians!
How Christians react in these situations is very important and pivotal to the (I’ll say it) the Gospel. The way we answer this “critique” and how we define our views on truth and love are utterly significant. Far more times than I care to admit, the prototypical reply goes something like this: “I know. You’re so right. As a Christian, I want you to know that we do love, and it’s the more important than anything else.” Then, the once defensive person feels appeased and understood, but are we really yielding to the actual problem? The problem is not truth versus love. The problem lies in our definition of each term, and the words that truly communicate what we mean.
Love cannot be separated from the truth. After all, love is honest! If the goal of the Christian is to be Christ in the world, then would any one of us assume that he would forego truth to love someone? On the contrary, it was Jesus’ truth that predicated his love. Many of us have heard, “Love is patient. Love is kind. Love is…” One can conclude that love is a compendium of virtues. Truth being one of them. Truth is gathered up into love. To pit love against truth is to war a mother with her son. It would not make sense (in a perfect world anyway). I cannot stress enough how much love envelops truth.
Perhaps, it is a matter of language?
Sometimes, I think what people are really trying to say is this: for all the words we preach and conviction we deliver, when will we offer the same amount of grace? This question is a fair one. If the Gospel is one of grace, why aren’t we exhibiting it more? Why not allow questions, dialogue, and uncertainty? Why shouldn’t we allow our critics to speak their mind and receive first rather than defend first?
It comes down to truth/justice and grace. And while they seem contradictory they are in fact an integral marriage that defines love itself. We see this mysterious and even confusing fusion on the cross at Calvary. The cross encompasses the ultimate truth in the person of Jesus, the ultimate justice of God’s wrath appeased, and of course, the ultimate act of grace, that all men be spared and offered the opportunity to be reconciled to their maker.
In my opinion, the challenge is not whether or not we love or speak truth, but asking ourselves in every circumstance, how can I fully love anyone in any particular situation? How do we display/speak truth gracefully and display/speak about grace truthfully? Paying attention to this detail will help change how we approach others and deepen our understanding of God. It requires a lot more work. Embodying grace and truth takes a lot of work, and because every individual is unique, there are no blanket specifics or manuals.
 1 Peter 3:15 [/edit] (courtesy of a good friend of mine, Paul Puckett)
Simply put, truth should never be at odds with other “loving” characteristics, because truth is a very loving thing. After all, Jesus IS the truth. However, we can pay closer attention to how graceful we are, and how appropriate our rebukes are in every circumstance. Love is above all else, because Love is the entirety of all that is God.
What are your thoughts? Let me know!
P.S. This was a little quick. My previous draft was deleted. So, I tried to rewrite all I could remember.