Think with me for a moment about education and relationships. Some of you care deeply that education not ignore or marginalize relationships of love. They are essential in real, lasting, life-changing education. Amen.
So I turn to the Bible. I find in place of the words, "education" and "relationship," the words, "truth" and "love." So what does the Bible say about how truth and love relate to each other? There are at least four ways of talking about this relationship.
1. Truth aims at love.
"The goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith" (1 Timothy 1:5). Note: instruction is not the goal, love is. Instruction is the means. It is subordinate. Truth serves love. Education serves relationships - mainly the relationship between us and God, but also between Christian and Christian, and between us and unbelievers. The "goal" of all our education is love.
"Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider one another how to stir up to love and good deeds, . . . encouraging one another" (Hebrews 10:23-25, literal translation). The aim of our "considering one another" and "encouraging one another" is that we stir up love. We mingle insight into "the confession of our hope" with insight into "each other," and the effect is stirring each other to love. The truth of doctrine and truth of people-watching unite to aim at love.
2. Love aims at truth.
"Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth" (1 Corinthians 13:6). Love is glad when truth is spoken. Therefore love aims at truth. It supports truth.
"Out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote to you with many tears; not so that you would be made sorrowful, but that you might know the love which I have especially for you" (2 Corinthians 2:4). Here is an example of how love aims at truth. Paul is filled with love and it compels him to write a letter that was hard, and caused sorrow in him and in the Corinthians. But it needed to be said. So love said it. Love speaks the truth personally and doctrinally.
3. Love shapes how to speak the truth.
"Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ" (Ephesians 4:15). There is an unloving way to speak the truth. That kind of truth-speaking we should repudiate. But there is a way to speak the truth in love, and that we should seek. It is not always a soft way to speak, or Jesus would have to be accused of lack of love in dealing with some folks in the Gospels.
But it does ask about what is the most helpful thing to say when everything is considered. Sometimes what would have been a hard word to one group is a needed act of love to another group, and not a wrong to the group addressed. But in general, love shapes truth into words and ways that are patient and gentle (2 Timothy 2:24-25).
4. Truth shapes how to show love.
"By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome" (1 John 5:2). It is not always obvious which acts are loving. So John tells us some truth will help us know if our acts are loving.
One truth test for our love is whether we are keeping the commandments of God toward people. In other words, love cannot be cut loose from the truth of God's will. Truth shapes how to show love.
Let us pray that God will cause his love and truth to abound and mingle in us in all these ways for the glory of his truth-filled love and love-filled truth.
John Piper has been the Pastor for Preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, since 1980. He has authored numerous best-selling books, including The Passion of Jesus Christ, Don't Waste Your Life and Desiring God. You will find 25 years of online sermons, articles, and other God-centered resources from the ministry of John Piper at www.desiringGod.org. He also has a daily radio program, called "Desiring God," which can be accessed online at www.desiringGod.org/radio. Visit the Desiring God online store to find all Audio Resources 40 percent Off!