Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Love or Truth?

Sometimes Christians seem divided between love and truth. Certainly almost no one would say they are against either love or truth! But the division arises over what is emphasized. Some Christians/churches/ministries/groups speak mostly of love: quoting all the verses about love, seeking to be the nicest person in the room, etc. But this sometimes comes at the expense of standing for truth. On the other side are those who become giddy over doctrine, but come across as uncaring jerks.

In the opening words of Paul's letter to the Philippian church, he tells them how he has been praying for them:
And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. Philippians 1:9-10, ESV
This Holy Spirit-inspired prayer from the lips of the apostle teaches us some important things about love and truth:

1. Believers need to be growing in love. We are not there yet. We must always be maturing in love ("more and more").
2. Love cannot come at the expense of truth. As we grow in love, we are to do so "WITH knowledge and all discernment." It's not love or truth, but love and truth.
3. Love does not mean that everyone is right. Love is wonderful, but it must be defined biblically. Love does not mean that we cannot correct false teaching. Paul wanted the Philippians to have knowledge and "all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent," leading to purity. Paul's idea of love was not flippant or relaxed toward truth, as if truth carried no bearing on eternity. What is believed in this life matters for all eternity, which is why Paul connects the idea of the Philippian's need for growth in knowledge and discernment to being found pure on the "day of Christ." Love does not mean accepting every idea. We need discernment. We must approve of "what is excellent" and reject what is false.

Jesus is glorified by a church that burns with love while approving and affirming what is true. Sometimes this means pointing out and correcting false teaching and false teachers. But, as Paul taught in another place, we must speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).

Love the truth! And don't be a jerk.

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