Truth and Love: The 2 Essential Marks of Christian Communication
In the U.S., people send somewhere around 26 billion texts every day. And even without access to our cell phones, the average speaks about 16,000 words a day.
We don’t often think carefully about our words, but we should.
Because our faith informs our speech, just as it does our entertainment, work, relationships, and choices.
So what are the marks of Christian communication? There are at least two essential ones: truth and love.
Now, many Christians pit truth and love against each another. In this view, truth and love are competing ideals. There is no necessary connection between the two.
But this is not the Christian view. For the Christian, if something is not true, it cannot be loving.
We see this all throughout the Bible. Truth and love are always connected. There is no love without truth. And there should not be any truth without love.
So let’s look at how these two realities inform our words.
There is nothing more essential to the Christian faith than truth.
We need to know and love the truth, because it is in danger of being buried underneath an avalanche of error. This is the individual responsibility of each Christian.
We’re not going to be able to fight this battle by exploring and dissecting every error in our society. We will win this fight by immersing ourselves in the truth.
And in the fog of half-truths, this requires a great amount of discernment.
“Discernment is not knowing the difference between right and wrong. It is knowing the difference between right and almost right.” – C.H. Spurgeon
This has never been more true.
The most deadly errors in our culture are lies that are based on some kernel of truth.
A lot of times, you can spot them by looking for catchy statements:
- “Everyone has the right to their opinion.”
- “You have to be yourself.”
- “You don’t want to be on the wrong side of history.”
It would be wrong for us to hear someone make any of these claims and dismiss them entirely. It’s very rare to hear a lie in our society that is not mixed with at least a little bit of truth.
So we must know and love the truth. We must be able to sift through the lies and uncover the kernel of truth that is buried there.
This gets right at the heart of the mistake that people make when they try to choose between the truth and love.
God’s truth is not at odds with love. 1 Corinthians 13:6 tells us that love rejoices in the truth.
Now, most people would say that truths about God’s love, mercy, and forgiveness are loving. But they don’t always understand that God’s commands are actually a summary of what love is.
*Romans 13:8 *says that when we love, we fulfill the law, and then in verse 10, Paul says that love is the fulfilling of the law.
So even God’s commands are in line with love. They are definitions of what love looks like in real life.
We cannot say we love anyone if we are unwilling to speak the truth to them.
In our culture, this task of loving others with the truth is more difficult than ever. If you claim to have absolute truth – truth that is true for everyone – you will be labeled hateful, bigoted, and intolerant.
But we must not allow the culture to define those words.
There is nothing loving about lying to someone about God. To lie about something that monumentally important is the epitome of hatred.
Don’t let the world define your terms. Don’t let them tell you what is loving and what is hateful. Don’t let them tell you what is hypocritical and what is authentic. Don’t let them tell you what is intolerant and what is tolerant.
We must allow God’s Word to define those things for us.
Now, this is very different than how we normally think of love. We normally think of love as a passive emotion. Something that we can’t control. We even talk about “falling in love”.
But biblically, love is active. It is an offensive weapon in the fight against error and deception.
And when it is guided by truth, love is a defense against deception and error.
How does love protect us against deception? It does so by defining what is truth and what is deception.
Out of a sincere desire to show compassion and care for others, Christians are sometimes guilty of being slow to speak out against those who living contrary to God’s truth.
But if we truly love each other, we will help one another by speaking the truth in love.
And we desperately need this help, because we are easily deceived. We are easily convinced that what the world offers is better than what God has promised.
This is the only reason that deception works at all. These deceivers in the world are only successful because they make the lie look true.
They make things that are ugly look attractive.
They make foolishness look wise.
They make shameful things look enjoyable.
So at its root, deception works because it gets us to think that we’ll be happier if we choose the lie over the truth. It tells us that we’ll find joy, satisfaction, rest, security, and a thousand other things if we choose sin over Christ.
So part of what it means to love one another in a church context is to call sin what it is. To point out the deception. To define “joy” and “peace” and “satisfaction” in true ways.
In order to love each other well, we must see that love has edges. It has corners. It has a shape. It’s not mushy. It can’t be manipulated to fit any situation or belief or lifestyle. It defines.
And because it has edges, it collides against our lives, our choices, our perspectives.
Ask yourself: Do you love the people in this church in this way? Do you use love as an offensive weapon in this spiritual battle?
When is the last time you have warned a brother or sister in Christ about an anti-Christian influence in their lives? Are you aware enough of those influences in your own life to identify them in someone else’s?
We have to help each other spot the lies in our thinking about parenting and marriage and our finances and our vocations.
This is what good preaching and teaching aims to do each week. To shape our minds and hearts around God’s truth, so that we can spot the lies in the world around us.
Don’t miss those opportunities in your church. Keep your eyes and ears open for anything that would hurt your brothers and sisters. And then, speak the truth in love.
To be faithful Christians, we must be both loving and truthful. Those two things cannot be separated.
Take a moment to think about your communication this past week. Think about the texts that you sent. Think about the words that were sent out on social media or in private conversation.
Were they marked by truth and love? Was your communication distinctively Christian?
Truth and love - these two realities should mark everything we say, write, and text. Our communication to other should be shaped by God’s definitions of love and truth.
So know and love God’s truth, and then, love others with it.