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Love in Truth

“Truth without love is brutality, and love without truth is hypocrisy.” Those words from Warren Wiersbe are profound & perpetually relevant.

If we relate to each other only on the basis of truth, then our relationship is going to be hard and harsh and. All the information you get from me will be reliable because it is accurate, but it may do you no good because it will be delivered to you without any regard for how it lands on you. It typically makes the person you are talking to defensive to the point that they won’t even hear the truth that you are trying to tell and that they really need to hear.

“Truth without love is brutality” and it often is not helpful because it is hard to receive.

But love without truth doesn’t help either. If we relate to each other only on the basis of love, we would probably make each other feel good ,because we would always be affirming and encouraging each other. We would overlook each others flaws and shortcomings because we wouldn’t want to hurt each others feelings and would simply leave many true things unsaid because we wouldn’t want to make each other feel bad. This concept would not help us grow and develop very much. Why? Because truth means so little that we would be willing to leave each other thinking & acting wrongly because of fear of the truth hurting, so we will not say and do what sometimes should be said and done for each others best interest. We are motivated by love, but at the expense of truth.

“Love without truth is hypocrisy” and it is often not helpful because it will not tell you what you sometimes need to hear. Most of us tend toward one or the other of these types of extremes. Some people are very loving. Their words are always positive, affirming and encouraging, but often not as forthcoming and truthful as they should be. Other people seem to have no problem speaking truth, but they do it in unloving and unkind ways. It’s like they don’t really care if you receive the truth, they just care about getting it right. They regard launching truth bombs—even if it results in a scorched earth in their hearers—as edifying speech.

Those who are God’s children cannot be satisfied to be merely loving or truthful. We must seek to grow more and more like Him so that we come to be both loving and truthful.

Scripture repeatedly calls us to keep these two virtues closely connected in the way that we live our lives. In Ephesians 4 Paul tells us that doing so is integral to spiritual maturity, which he describes as the opposite of being like children who are “tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (14). Immediately after characterizing spiritual immaturity this way, he writes, “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ” (15).

“Speaking the truth is love” is contrasted to spiritual immaturity. In other words, both being loving without being truthful and being truthful without being loving are evidence of spiritual childishness. Christians are to grow into Christlikeness. That is the good goal toward which God is working all things together in our live (Romans 8:28-29). It would be helpful for us to consider, then, what Jesus Christ is like, especially in the way that He displays the virtues of truth and love.

A shorthand way to summarize what the New Testament teaches us about this is to say that Jesus is both truth personified and love personified. He blatantly claimed the former—“I am the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6)—while incontrovertibly demonstrating the latter—“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). God is love. As the God-man, Jesus was love walking. We see Him deal with people in truth and love throughout His earthly ministry. His encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well exemplifies this. The fact that He talked to her at all, crossing cultural and social boundaries demonstrated unusual love. He also, however, truthfully addressed her multiple adulterous relationships. He didn’t let her pretend simply to be a single, unwed lady. Rather He lovingly and truthfully spoke to her in order to help her see her need for new life and forgiveness which are found in Him alone (John 4:1-30).

The way for Christians to grow in both truth and love is to grow in Christ. To know Him more intimately. To trust Him more readily. To grow in His grace and knowledge by having our minds renewed daily as the Spirit teaches us His word here is what Paul says in the Love chapter. You cannot honor truth without also being loving. In 1 Corinthians 13:2 Paul writes, “If I… understand all mysteries and all knowledge [that’s truth]… but have not love, I am nothing.” If you are satisfied to be full of truth while lacking in love, know this—the truth of God’s Word that you think you are so full of and that you honor, says you are nothing.

In the same way, it is impossible genuinely to love without honoring truth. Why? Because genuine love “rejoices in truth” (1 Corinthians 13:6) and seeks the welfare of the one being loved. People can only be helped by knowing the truth. If you think you are being loving while downplaying truth, you really aren’t. You are sinning against love.

As followers of Christ, we must never be satisfied to be merely loving or truthful. Rather, we should strive to be as John when he said to the church “Whom I love in truth”

And in loving each other in truth we are proclaiming and representing Jesus to each other.

May God richly bless you

Matt Zook

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