The Relationship of Truth and Love

September 2017

Social media these days are rife with angry arguments, many of them Christians and against Christians. Truth is presented, often quite well, but the medium of the written word is not very effective in conveying the love that Christians must exude when presenting truth. I have heard it preached over and over again how truth and love are need to be in balance (see Eph. 4:15-16 and Ps. 85:10[1]); but that is incredibly difficult, even in face-to-face conversations, especially considering we take a rather abstract approach to the concept of truth.[2] Even conceding the existence of absolute truth, how does an abstract set of mores actually affect our lives? Is trumpeting facts enough or does it drive wedges between those whom we are seeking to save, because we are not being “loving"? Simply “loving” everyone is definitely not enough, because “love” and approval applied without careful forethought tends to allow people to drift towards damnation rather than raising them toward resurrection. How to proceed?

Then in my meditations on Scripture, it struck me: truth is not merely a set of mores, nor is love merely a choice often backed up by emotions. Rather, they are one Person. When we look at Scripture, Jesus Christ proclaims “I am … the Truth …” (Jn. 14:7) He tells us, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (Jn. 8:32 – HCSB) Jesus is not talking about something abstract here, but rather of Himself, as he makes clear later on. And knowing[3] here is more than mere mental assent. Rather, underlying it is the Hebrew idea of experiential knowledge; the same deep knowledge shared by a husband and wife in their most intimate moments. The biblical definition of “knowing truth”, therefore, is not simply agreeing to a set of various propositions, but rather a relationship.

But Jesus is not merely Truth; He is more. For, being God, He is Love as well (see 1Jn. 4:8). Thus, we find as we know – experientially – Jesus better, we come to love better. Love is also the outcome of living a life according to the chain of 2 Peter 1:5-7, the result of which is that, “they will keep you from being useless or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2Pe. 1:8 – HCSB; emphasis mine) Again: relationship.

So, the answer to the dichotomy between Truth and Love is this: they must be proven in relationship, in sharing ourselves with one another. This is not really possible via social media; especially not with people we only know there. It must be face-to-face, one-on-one, life-on-life. If there’s an issue with someone who is not accepting Truth, it’s probably not because what I have proposed isn’t written in a kind manner. It’s probably because I don’t have a relationship with them which shows love and truth lived out, allowing me to be Jesus to them.

Image credit: Claudine Chaussé | Lightstock

  • [1] Some translations read “faithfulness”, rather than “truth”. However, the word אֶמֶת (ʾemet) does mean “truth” as well as “faithfulness”. See “אֶמֶת”, New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology & Exegesis, Willem VanGemeren, ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1997), 451.
  • [2] See here the definition for truth in the Merriam-Webster dictionary. “Truth”, Merriam-Webster.com. < https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/truth > (accessed 2017-09-02).
  • [3] See E. D. Schmitz, “Γινώσκω”, New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, ed. Lothar Coenen, Erich Beyreuther, and Hans Bietenhard (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1986), 395.