St. Paul wrote, "Speak the truth in love."
Many centuries later, most of us are still struggling to live this out.
There are some who gravitate toward truth without love. They are often characterized by doctrinal rigidity and moral scrupulosity. If a pastor preaches a sermon on a given passage of Scripture without explaining the meaning of every verse, they accuse him of "not sticking to the text." If he preaches, as Luther did, that sanctification is simply a matter of getting used to our justification, he is accused of "not preaching obedience and holiness." Jesus had something to say to folks like this many years ago in the city of Ephesus:
"I know you cannot tolerate wicked men.. you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not. . Yet I hold this against you: you have forsaken your first love. . . If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place." (Revelation 2:2, 4-5)
There are others who gravitate toward love without truth. They are often characterized by a desire to be relevant and inclusive. If a pastor preaches a sermon on a passage of Scripture which addresses the problems of sexual immorality, they dismiss him as old fashioned at best, judgmental at worst. Jesus had something to say to folks like this many years ago in the city of Thyatira:
"I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance. . Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality. . I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways." (Revelation 2:19-20, 22).
Truth without love is toxic. Love without truth is fluff. When you put truth and love together, however, the result is a life characterized not simply by a combination of the two, but something else altogether. In the words of Eugene Peterson, in his marvelous commentary on Revelation:
"St. John is a poet, using words to intensify our relationship with God. He is not trying to get us to think more accurately or to train us into better behavior, but to get us to believe more recklessly, behave more playfully-- the faith recklessness and hope-playfulness of children entering the kingdom of God. He will jar us out of our lethargy, get us to live on the alert, open our eyes to the burning bush and fiery chariots, open our hearts to the hard-steel promises and commands of Christ, banish boredom from the gospel, lift up our heads, enlarge our hearts."
Listen to Jesus and you will hear the truth, but you will also become a playful and reckless lover.