The single most difficult pursuit is truth and love.
That sentence is grammatically correct. I know every English teacher wanted to pluralize it to read: The most difficult pursuits are those of truth and love but that’s not what I meant to say.
True, love is a difficult pursuit. Correct, truth is a tough one, too.
But put them together, pursue truth and love at the same time, and hang on, baby, you’re in for the ride of your life.
But that’s the task of the Christian. Love in truth. Truth in love. Never one at the expense of the other. Never the embrace of love without the torch of truth. Never the heat of truth without the warmth of love.
Never would be easier if we could choose between the two, but we can’t. So John, in this second letter, calls for a hybrid.
“I love all of you in the truth, and all those who know the truth love you. We love you because of the truth that lives in us and will be with us forever. Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ, will be with us in truth and love.” (2 John 2-3)
Truth and love. Love and truth. Never one without the other. To pursue both is our singular task.
I’ve been contemplating about the subject of truth and love all week. How, as followers of Christ, we can live in the tension between the two of them. If you haven’t felt the tension, or haven’t really thought about it, think of the last time you had to forgive a friend or a loved one over something BIG. There’s always that struggle in us to forgive because while we want to love and make our relationship right with that person again, we don’t want to dismiss or forget what had happened. TRUTH points out what’s wrong in us, in situations we find ourselves in, the sin that we’re hiding. LOVE is grace, forgiveness, redemption, acceptance. When we’re teaching or giving advice to others, all we want to teach is the TRUTH, not because we don’t think love is important. but because there’s already too much of it. But when it’s our turn to face it, all we want is LOVE, because we already know what we’ve done wrong.
In the Max Lucado devotional Bible (a quote I found in the Owl City blog), he wrote a preface to 2 John that addresses this subject matter, and I don’t think I can add much to what he said (but I did anyway. hehe. but here’s the quote):
Truth and love in the flesh is messy. It’s Jesus telling the adulterous woman whom he had just saved from stoning, “Neither do I condemn you, now go and sin no more.” No condemnation, but an acknowledgement that there is sin that had to be forgiven. Jesus lived in the tension between truth and love the whole time he was on earth and he hung out with the sinners and tax collectors– he loved them and he forgave them and accepted them. Jesus is the embodiment of truth and love. That’s why He died on the cross! God wants to save us, but there is sin that needed to be paid in full.
So, how do we live in this tension? We don’t want to dole out just truth because truth without love drives people away. They leave feeling rejected and even more condemned. If we’re all about just love– sin will just be overlooked and there would be tolerance but no change for the good will happen.
One day at a time, I’m trying to live this in my life by never giving up on people, even the difficult ones. To speak the truth in love (it’s hard!) or just thinking before I speak; avoiding quick judgments or arguments for argument’s sake; giving second and third to the nth chances; holding back “I told you so;” easing it up on tough love; and giving up my right to be right whenever I am and I have to.
I’m not always successful– the big sister in me always wants to fix things and boss people around. But if we need want to reach out to the people who don’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ yet– the seeking, the lost and those who don’t want to be found, the self-confessed sinners, the bad boys, the bad girls, gay people, the broken, the modern day “tax collectors”–we have to be willing to give ourselves to this tension between truth and love.
We need to learn how Jesus loves by going out there in the world and doing it.
Have a great weekend, guys. I love you. -Stef