“He has done about half his work in convincing another of error who has first convinced him that he loves him.” – Barnes
The purpose of life is to glorify (make much of) God by living according to His will. Simply put, God is the point of life. And God is Love [1 John 4:8]. We know that we are not living in an ideal world. The world that we’re currently living in is desperately broken. If we are in Christ (Christians), we know that we have been redeemed from the prison of sin but not the presence of sin. We live in a fallen world, battling a defiant flesh and dodging a deceiving devil (with the Holy Spirit as our guide and guard). The life of a Christian is war – a real, practical, messy war. It is war with the world, a war with our flesh and a war with the devil. It is not a war with other people, and it is definitely not a war with fellow Christians.
God has ordained two primary means (among others) through which our success and victory in this life is ensured. Apart from his indwelling, empowering and helping Spirit, Christ has given us the communication of His Word and the communion of His church. These two are interdependent and expected to work in tandem. His communication informs our communion; and our communion displays His communication. In more biblical terms, God’s Truth informs Godly Love, while Godly Love displays God’s Truth. Truth without love is like faith without action, dead [see James 2:17] and love without truth is like action without faith, dead [see Rom 14:23].
Sadly, there are those amongst us who are bent on proclaiming (or rather, enforcing) the truth irrespective of whether love is displayed in the process. We seem to have forgotten that “the GOAL of our instruction (truth) is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere heart.” [1 Tim 1:5]. We are bent on saying the truth, irrespective of whether or not we possess it in the core of our being. Our confidence seems to lie more on our being right than our being true.
On the other extreme, there are those amongst us who are bent on upholding peaceful relationships, irrespective of whether or not the truth is proclaimed in the process. They are bent on attaining peaceful co-existence by any means that seems to work, irrespective of what God’s word says. They seem to have forgotten that “love does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth.” [1 Cor 13:6]
If our love for the truth does not translate into our love for our brothers, we deceive ourselves, and the love of God is not in us. Similarly, if our love for our brothers does not spring forth from our love for the truth, we deceive ourselves and the truth of God is not in us. The Bible says that Jesus is the Truth and that He is in the Father [see John 14:6,11]. The Bible also says that God is Love and that He is in Jesus [see John 14:11]. Therefore, any Love that is not in Truth is not Love, and any Truth that is not in Love is not Truth.
Unfortunately, many of us will often go to the extent of quoting Paul to defend our loveless truths:
“It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.” [Philippians 1:15]
However, what many of us forget is that, in writing these words, Paul meant that the malice and selfish ambitions of others did not matter to Paul in the sense that they did not deter his mission. Paul did not mean that the malice and the selfish ambitions of others did not ultimately matter to God. Those malicious, selfish and attention-seeking truth-slingers have received their reward in full – and lest you misunderstand me, it is not the kind of reward that you want to receive from God [Matthew 6:5].
The bottom line: God hates and opposes loveless truth-speakers just as much as He hates heresy-speaking love-activists.
May we be found in neither category. God wants all of me, and all of you.
May we, speaking the truth in love, grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ! [Ephesians 4:15].
Let us, even as we engage one another for the sake of truth, remember that it is the truth of the Gospel and the love of God that makes it all possible. Let our hearts and attitudes display the love that we have freely received, even as we seek to fulfill our roles as messengers of Truth. Let our words remain faithful to the Truth, even as we seek to show love to our brethren.
May Jesus Christ receive all the glory and honor.