In the future, when Jesus reigns on the earth, when lions lie down with lambs, people will resolve disagreements by telling the truth in love. In those days, unlike in today’s world, love and truth will be harmoniously one.
In today’s world, many people talk as if truth and love are incompatible. In courtrooms and classrooms, in taverns and town meetings, truth and love are talked about as opposite values—truth being intellectual and rational; love, emotional and nonrational. More than just temperamentally different, truth and love, like adult siblings grown apart, are said to have gone their different ways. Nowadays truth disparages love for its sentimentality and naiveté, and love devalues truth for its intolerance and arcane scientism. Both accuse each other of incivility.
Even in our churches truth and love appear estranged. Today some Christians who see themselves as faithful to God’s true words in the Bible stand opposed to those who see themselves as faithful to God’s love within those words. Of course, such a separation of love and truth within the church is disappointing, for Scripture speaks of truth and love as harmonious, particularly in Ephesians 4:15, where Paul encourages the Ephesian church members (who disagreed among themselves about the unity of Jewish and Gentile believers) to manifest their oneness in Christ by speaking the truth in love.
Conflicts among Christians are not necessarily sinful. Indeed, conflicts rarely arise from people being intentionally malicious: most people would never spark a conflict for its own sake, never try to make trouble. What people typically desire is acceptance of their version of a truth. Still, a resolvable conflict can escalate into a sinful conflict with dreadful consequences—injury, murder, war.
Considering such consequences, it’s understandable why some people try to avoid conflicts by retreating into an ideological fortress that promises them protection. And it is even understandable, psychologically speaking, why many people ignorantly accept the postmodern notion that truth is a relative value—vacuous and suspended in amoral space, where no thought, word, or action has value in reference to an objective or revealed truth but all values are measured by the fluctuating standards of other relative values.
If, as well-known atheists Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens argue, the notion of revealed religious truth is obsolete, then it may be reasonable to think that making truth relative—or even eliminating “truth” altogether—is responsible.
People have tried to eliminate the notion of objective truth. Sometimes they replace it with a less-trustworthy “truthiness,” but the human need for real truth won’t go away. So it’s been discredited and devalued instead, particularly in academia.
In the university, where evidences of postmodern thinking are most prevalent, truth—particularly religious truth—has been devalued to the status of civilization’s troublemaker. Dogmatic, intolerant, morally unenlightened, truth is now shunned as irrelevant.
Its equal rank among the classic virtues revoked, truth is now subordinate to mythic, romantic love. And the ironic but not humorous outcome of truth’s fall from honor is that love has become the new, absolute truth.
Now whenever conflicts arise between love and truth, both academic and popular cultures cheer for love. As it happens, truth has lost a lot of friends. If truth still matters, how can we reconcile love and truth so that we may speak the truth in love?
Looking to Jesus Christ provides us the best answer. In the Bible, we see Jesus living fully in this world. He didn’t exempt himself from the conflicts of an earthly human life; instead, he passed through conflicts provoked by the devil, religious leaders, and even his own disciples. And he experienced death on a cross, the most painful, humiliating conflict of all.
On the cross, Jesus reconciled all things in himself. In the death of Jesus, we see that our conflicts—our conflicts with God, with one another, and with ourselves—are healed and made whole through his uniting in himself both truth and love.
How did Jesus accomplish this reconciliation? Through self-surrender and obedience to his Father. By yielding his life to the Father, through surrendering his life on the cross, Jesus united love and truth in a sacrificial act of redemption, thus making possible our ability to speak the truth in love.
Jesus’ way of uniting truth and love on the cross can be our way of knowing love and truth in our own hearts, so that in the chaotic moments of conflicts, we don’t sin but act gracefully, truthfully, lovingly. By surrendering our wills to Jesus Christ, we will discover through his Spirit the unity of truth and love. By speaking the truth in love, we will manifest the values of God’s kingdom in this world.
The Bible teaches us to speak the truth in love. Here are some biblical principles to practice today:
- Ask God to help you discern the truth.
- Surrender your will to Jesus Christ.
- Listen actively, empathetically, and respectfully to the other person’s idea, story.
- Know what you believe and why.
- Communicate your truth in simple, clear terms.
- Stay connected to the person. If you are both Christians, pray together.
- Be willing to change.
Truth and love can be held together through God’s grace. In Christ’s life and death, we see his will yielded in obedience to God.
Through such obedience, Jesus brought together truth and love. We too can express the unity of truth and love by yielding our lives to Christ and applying practical biblical principles that show our generation what the kingdom of God is truly like.