The other day I saw a Christian – I’ll even go so far as to say a pastor – on Facebook ridicule a song by a young Christian musician. Now I’m somewhat musical and have dabbled in song writing here and there and I can be as critical as the next person when it comes to lyric content (I think I frustrate our praise team with songs I refuse because of content – or lack of content). But let’s put this in perspective. If this young woman was to show up at your church, would you bring her up on the platform and publicly denounce her in front of the whole congregation? No? THEN WHY POST IT ON FACEBOOK??? You’re doing the same thing!
Truth is not a billy club
We have gotten into a rut in the modern (postmodern? Gen X? When did labels get so confusing?) church. So many believers grab truth from Scripture and then use it to beat up everyone around them! Why is it we choose some important truths from Scripture and use them to ignore the clear teachings of Scripture that we are to love our brothers and sisters in Christ? Why is that we ignore the clear teachings that our love for one another is one of the surest signs of being a follower of Christ for a watching world to see (John 13:34-35)? We are to know Christ and to grow in our knowledge of Christ, but as we gain understanding of Christ we should not use that truth as a billy club to beat up others around us.
Enduring in Truth is Not Enough
In Revelation 2:1-7, Christ commends the church in Ephesus for enduring in truth. They have faced false teachers from within the church and have not given in to their teachings. They have faced persecution from the culture and were unwilling to compromise the truth of the gospel. Then Christ unloads a bombshell. He says, “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first.” A little further down he also says, “If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place” (Revelation 2:4-5). It is an interesting study to think about exactly what “love” they had lost, but let’s for the moment just take it in the most general sense of love for God and love for others (I assume it was at the very least one of those two!). Christ is saying he would rather not have a church in Ephesus at all – since that’s what removal of the lampstand would mean – than to have a church that is unloving. Why? Isn’t it enough that they were holding on to truth?
There is no Truth Without Love
It was at this point in my sermon preparation on this passage that a light went on in my mind. Truth that is not expressed in love is not actually truth – no matter how sound the content – because the bible clearly teaches that we are to love one another and clearly teaches that God is a loving God. Certainly we must make sure that we define love on God’s terms and not ours, but we should be left with a better definition of love, not a complete lack of it. If someone has studied Scripture, has great knowledge of theology, yet does not love fellow believers and/or does not love God then then they may have gained a lot of knowledge, but they have missed truth. They have missed the truth that the God of all truth is loving and has commanded us to be loving as well. They have missed the truth that this incredibly smart, knowledgeable, and truthful Savior’s greatest expression of his truthfulness was to love us (even in our ignorance and error, our desire to hold on to untruth and half-truths) by sacrificing himself to die on a cross. If we miss the essential truth of love in God’s treatment of us, which should then be the standard of our treatment for others, then we have not comprehended truth. There is no truth without love.
The Hard Road of Truth and Love
So where does this lead us? It leads us to a more difficult road. It is easy to seek to be truthful and not care how you impact those around you. It is easy to be loving and not care about truth (which I wrote about here). It is difficult to walk the road of love informed by truth and truth expressed in love. Yet I believe this is exactly the road Christ called us to when he said, “Come, follow me” (Matthew 4:18). It is also the road that he called us to when he said “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34) because the cross is the greatest expression of truth and love in perfect union that there ever was. We live the way of the cross when we humbly speak truth in love and boldly show love based on truth.
The ideas from this post were taken from a sermon I preached on Revelation 2:1-7 which you can listen to here.