Last week, we talked about the idea of speaking love without truth and how, through Jesus’ example, we are free to be both fully, not the balance of each. We recognized that love has to be accompanied by truth to be truly loving. This week, I want us to explore how truth has to be spoken with love in order to be effective.
In our society, truth is something that is defined by self. My truth is different than your truth and both of those “truths” are different from everyone else’s truth. The idea behind living your own truth is really a lie, ironically. Truth is literally defined as, “that which is true or in accordance with fact or reality.” It is a fact that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. My opinion cannot change that fact, even if I define my opinion as my truth.
Our truths, if self-defined, are always going to lead to conflict. If my truth says being punctual is of high importance, but your truth says being punctual is insignificant, we are going to clash when you arrive for an appointment 20 minutes late. This goes all the way up to monstrosities. My truth says rape is wrong, but if someone else’s truth is that sex is of the utmost priority and they deserve it at any cost, our truths will clash, and those results will be devastating.
You see, we need to look outside of ourselves for truth. Christians believe that Jesus is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” (John 14:6) If Jesus is the Truth, then the words He says and the actions He takes are the full expression of the Truth. He continues to say, “No one comes to the Father except through me.” We can take that as a fact.
Jesus was able to speak the truth in love. Speaking the truth, in and of itself, is a form of love, as we discovered last week. But sometimes, we focus on speaking the truth and we don’t care if it falls on someone harshly. My favorite example of Jesus speaking truth in love is at the beginning of the Gospel of John, when the Pharisees bring a woman to Him who was caught in the act of adultery. They ask Him, “The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”
They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust. When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”
That right there, that is truth and love in their fullness. He doesn’t condemn her, instead He tells her the truth: “Go and sin no more.” He doesn’t deny that she sinned. He doesn’t say, “it’s okay.” He tells her to leave her sin behind, to go a different way, to repent. But before He tells her to repent, He loves her and tells her He doesn’t condemn her. This is what we should strive for when it comes to speaking the truth in love. Love them, remind them that we don’t condemn them, for we are not God. But speaking the truth, telling them to repent—go in a new direction.
See, as followers of Christ, we are not in the outcome business. We don’t have to see a total conversion before our eyes… from lost to saved in a matter of minutes. No, the results of speaking truth in love will be best experienced when we let the Holy Spirit work in that person’s life. But because Jesus is who we are to imitate, we can speak the truth in love, and let God take care of the rest.
Paul writes in his first letter to the Corinthians, “If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” From that, we can learn that if truth is not met with love, we will be simply a loud, harsh noise. As Christians, sometimes we are okay with being harsh, if it means we speak the truth. But Paul makes it clear, loving others is just as important as the truth. So let’s be both truth and love in their fullness. Let’s not try to balance each. When we try to balance them, we end up losing both. Let’s share the full truth and be fully loving.
“If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing,” says 1 Corinthians 13:2.
Photo by Ben Mater