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Truth and Love: Why the Church (and our Nation) Need Both

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Our country and the church seem to be divided between two camps: the “all truth and no love” camp and the “all love and no truth” camp. That is, some of us have sacrificed truth for the sake of “being loving.” And others of us have sacrificed love for the sake of “being honest.” The question is whether we can actually be fully loving without the truth or communicate the truth effectively without love.

Truth and Love Matter

Two Februarys ago I was rushed to UNC Hospital. I had been chronically ill since 2007 and acutely ill on and off since late 2017, when I dropped down to 110lbs and almost lost my life to starvation. Things were serious. I spent the better part of three years in a bed and all of 2019 in such severe pain that it felt like I was being actively tortured.

For years I had well-meaning doctors trying to help me. Unfortunately, I was misdiagnosed again and again. Honestly, part of this was our fault. When the traditional medical community couldn’t give us an answer, we sought answers from a number of doctors who were practicing outside the bounds of evidenced-based medicine. Two of these misdiagnoses not only didn’t make me better; they made me worse. I was on multiple antibiotics for years. Then in late 2019 a doctor told me I had a virus and put me on medication that turned our nightmare into a horror film. In other words, the road to my physical hell was literally paved with good intentions. Truth matters.

Upon arriving at UNC, I was still fully convinced in my own mind that I had this virus and needed some kind of antiviral to obliterate it. I told the doctor on call what I thought I knew. Do you know what he did? He patiently listened, calmly answered my questions, and then with the utmost gentleness and care explained why the latest diagnosis I had been given was wrong.

He didn’t get angry or dismiss me when I questioned him. He understood that after all the years of failed treatments, I didn’t trust doctors anymore. He then explained what the team at UNC had discovered was in fact wrong with me, and what we needed to do to get me better. And because he wielded the truth with a bedside manner that might have made Mr. Rogers jealous, I listened and bought into the plan that saved my life. Love matters.

If you love people, care about the truth. If you care about the truth, love people.

Making the Connection

There are a lot of divisive issues being discussed in our country and the church right now, such as racism, homosexuality, transgenderism, gender roles in the church, etc. As the church, we must approach these issues with the same dedication to truth and love as my doctors at UNC. If we don’t, if the church doesn’t keep love and truth together, the health of the church and society will inevitably suffer.[1]

Take one of these controversial issues: homosexuality. If we are honest without being kind, we alienate the very people God is calling us to minister to. We can’t forget that God’s kindness led us, and leads others, to repentance (Romans 2:4). Nor can we forget that it is with “gentleness and respect” that we are to give “a reason for the hope that is in us” (1 Peter 3:15). Even when we are slandered, we are to “answer kindly” (1 Corinthians 4:13). If the manner in which we communicate the truth on this or any other matter is inconsistent with the character and conduct of Christ, then we need to repent.

If, on the other hand, we are kind without being truthful, we abandon people to the consequences of error. My wife calls this misguided compassion. Misguided compassion can be relatively harmless or it can be catastrophic. Accidentally giving someone bad directions is relatively harmless. But giving someone bad medical or theological care, regardless of our intentions, could cost them their physical or spiritual health and future. We can’t forget that failing to repent of sin and trust in Christ means that people won’t inherit eternal life:

“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)

It wouldn’t have been loving for my doctor to agree with my false diagnosis or fail to offer me the medical care he knew I needed. Likewise, it isn’t loving to agree with the world’s assessment of what is right and wrong and fail to offer them the truth we know they need. If our dedication to kindness makes us ignore the spiritual condition and eternal destiny of others, we need to repent and renew our dedication to the truth. For some of us, this means we need to do our homework (biblically and sociologically) before we speak on these topics.

Ironically, the “all truth and no love” camp and the “all love and no truth” camp often lead to the same result: a person struggling with their identity who never gives the gospel or gospel living a real hearing.

As the apostle Paul might say, may it never be. If you love people, care about the truth. If you care about the truth, love people. This is the way of the Kingdom.

[1] When salt and light aren’t salt and light, decay and darkness follow.

 

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  • current events
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Jonathan Darville

Jonathan Darville is a former Global Master Trainer with The Center for Leadership Studies and Co-Leader of the New York branch of Models for Christ (an international non-profit bringing the gospel to the fashion industry). Due to a decade-plus long battle with chronic illness, Jonathan has recently stepped away from work to focus on his health. During this time, he is freelance writing to stay connected with the ministry of the Church. Jonathan and his wife, Jillian, live in North Carolina.

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