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The Neglected Virtues of Truth and Love
Maturing in Christ in an age of sentimental mush
“You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbour, lest you incur sin because of him.” (Leviticus 19:17)
When it comes to speech, Christians have been catechized by the world far more than the Scriptures. Consider how we cringe at open statements of the truth and balk at hard words delivered in boldness. Or how we instinctively wince at correction and assume, in synchrony with our culture, that any word that fails to affirm another’s perceived identity is necessarily unloving. To say to someone, as Jesus did, “You are quite wrong,” immediately strikes us as inappropriate (Mk. 12:27). Worse still, we conceal our cowardice by telling ourselves we’re simply being kind or that we’re looking for a way to tell the truth without being divisive.
The glaring reality remains, however, that we are far less biblical than we imagine. The only thing that binds our tongues is fear, not love.
The trouble with these mistaken notions is that the conduit of love in the Scriptures is very often hard words. The above passage from Leviticus, which Paul tells us is an expression of love (Rom. 13:10), instructs us to “reason frankly” with our neighbour when we encounter conflict. Proverbs reminds us that an open rebuke is better than hidden love (Prov. 27:5). Jesus tells us to go to our brother when there is an offence and “tell him his fault” (Matt. 18:16). And Paul told Timothy that to “reprove, rebuke, and exhort” was central to his pastoral office (2 Tim. 4:2). In all these cases, the Scriptures remind us that truth — not massaged feelings — is the substance and ground of love.
The failure to see this connection between truth and love is one of the primary reasons why our churches lack the potency, life, holiness, and unity we know they ought to possess. The Bible says the Church matures as saints speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15) — and we have neglected both. We have accepted a dichotomy between these virtues that doesn’t in fact exist and have reaped the impotence our disobedience deserves.
If we would see the church of our Lord Jesus Christ restored in strength and splendour, we need to stop rummaging for ethical direction in the sludge pool of the world. The world says truth must be adjusted in order to make room for love; the Almighty has declared that love rejoices with the truth (1 Cor. 13:6).
And what God hath joined together, let no man separate.
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