Truth or Love?
by Sarah Phillips
Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. Ephesians 4:15
"Love takes up where knowledge leaves off." ~ St. Thomas Aquinas
It's a common quote among Christians: "Speak the truth in love." It's also one of the greatest challenges of being Christian. Even those unfamiliar with the Christian faith and this scripture verse battle with balancing truth and love. It is why the "white lie" - a common tactic to avoid sharing unflattering truths to loved ones - is so popular.
I recently had a conversation with a Christian struggling with this tension between truth and love. A zealous soul, this Christian is convicted in the truth and concerned that many will die without the truth. His concern, no doubt, is born out of love. But his delivery of the truth often does not reveal love for the recipient. Unsure of how to proceed, and fearful of watering down the truth, he has come to the conclusion that some are called to focus more on love while others are called to focus more on truth.
I think this struggling Christian's conclusion hits at the heart of the dilemma. In our broken, splintered natures, we tend to see truth and love as opposing forces - at best, difficult to reconcile. Yet this perception that there is tension between truth and love can prove fatal. Putting truth on one end of the spectrum and love on the other, we are forced into measuring each situation on a linear plane. "Hmmm, should I err more towards the truth end or the love end today?"
It only takes a little imagination to see how this approach fails. How many times have we encountered a person that "chose love" and glossed over the truth? We see souls confused and dying in the wake of this person. While "love" may have been the intent, their victims have not been loved.
And how many times have we encountered a person who spat cruel words in the name of truth? While illumination (or perhaps justice) was the goal of this person, we clearly see that those left in their wake have bitter souls, scarred and blinded to the truth.
Ultimately, Scripture reveals that God is both Truth and Love. If this is the case, the two cannot be contradictory or incompatible.
So where does that leave us?
Scripture tells us we cannot do anything "against the truth" (2 Corinthians 13:8) while also emphasizing that "whoever does not love does not know God." (1 John 4:8)
This message doesn't offer us the luxury of a simple, clear-cut gameplan to every situation we will ever encounter. But it does leave us with confidence that as we grow in our relationship with God, we will also grow in our ability to approach the challenges of life with genuine truth and love.
I've also found it helpful to continually revisit my definitions of "truth" and "love" by examining the ways Christ lived out these two traits. Christ's love is both soft and tough. His expressions of truth are both merciful and just. He comprimises neither yet expresses them differently depending on the need.
The next time you find yourself battling with how to express something truthfully and lovingly, don't settle for choosing one over the other. Pause before you act and dig deeper. Allow God to lead you down his path of truth and love.
Intersecting Faith & Life: Which do you struggle with more? Speaking the truth or effectively expressing love? Pray about the reasons you get tripped up, and ask God to help you grow in your area of weakness.