Best of Daily Reflections: Can Love and Truth Get Along?
[Love] does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.
1 Corinthians 13:6
Sometimes it seems as if truth and love are enemies. For example, suppose your friend shows up wearing a hideous new shirt. Then he asks you, "What do you think of my shirt?" It seems as if you have to choose between telling the truth ("That shirt is ugly!") and doing the loving thing ("What a great shirt!"). More seriously, I think of families with an alcoholic mother. One of the adult children thinks it's important to confront her mother. But another of the adult children says, "If we tell Mom she's an alcoholic, she'll be hurt and angry. It wouldn't be the loving thing." Truth and love appear to be irreconcilable.
But 1 Corinthians 13 sees love and truth as profoundly connected: "[Love] does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out" (13:6). The Greek phrase behind "rejoices whenever the truth wins out" could be read more literally, "rejoices with the truth." The verb meaning "rejoices with" (synchairo) appears, for example, in Jesus' story of the lost coin. The woman who finds the coin calls her friends and neighbors and calls them to rejoice with her (synchairo, Luke 15:9).
How does love rejoice with the truth? True love desires what is best for another, and the best will always be based on truth. In the case of the alcoholic mother, for example, her healing and freedom, as well as the health of her family, will only come when she confronts the truth of her addiction to alcohol. Keeping her from dealing with the truth might seem nice, but it is not really the loving thing to do.
In many cases, love motivates us to tell happy truths to others. Because I love my wife, for example, I try to tell her things I appreciate about her. Love motivates me to speak the truth. Similarly, love for my colleagues at work encourages me to let them know how much I value them and their partnership with me.
Christians are sometimes criticized for being "unloving" when we speak to others about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. To be sure, some believers share this good news in a harsh, insensitive, or arrogant way. But if we truly believe that God loves us and that his love can be experienced through Jesus Christ, who offers the best kind of life, then love for others compels us to share this good news. Love will also shape the way we communicate, calling us to humility, authenticity, and sensitivity as we share the truth of God's love in Christ.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: When you think about love rejoicing in the truth, what comes to mind? Do you sometimes experience tension between truth and love? When? How might true love lead you to speak the truth with others? Are there people in your life who need to hear truth from you because you love them?
PRAYER: Dear Lord, as you know, it's easy for us to think of love and truth as somehow opposed. We can hold back from speaking the truth because we don't want to be unloving. And we fear that if we tell others about your love in Christ, we'll be accused of being unloving.
Forgive us when we settle for something less than real love in our relationships with others. Forgive us when we ignore or deny the truth because we don't want to make anybody else feel uncomfortable.
Teach us, Lord, how to speak the truth in love. Help us to communicate in ways that are respectful and humble, even as they are truthful. Teach us to be more generous in sharing good things with those whom we love. Help us to be judicious and gentle when we need to say hard things to them. In a world that so often separates truth from love, may we be people who keep these two together, for your sake and your glory. Amen.