Yesterday I wrote about how love without truth is cruel. Today I’m going to take on the opposite side of that coin.
Truth Without Love is Abuse.
I grew up in an environment where my father was never accountable for anything he did. The cost of his unaccountability was abuse, neglect, homelessness, food insecurity, foster care and more. Sometimes in life your environment molds you to be similar and sometimes it molds you to rebel against what you saw. For me, it was the latter.
Having suffered due to another’s inability to take responsibility for his actions and do the right thing, I became hyper-accountable not just to myself but holding others to an unmeetable standards of expectation and accountability.
Now, in my defense, I was nuts! I suffered from undiagnosed Posttraumatic Stress Disorder which gave me seriously flawed thinking, especially becoming hyper-sensitive to areas that triggered negative memories and emotions. But, the level of accountability I expected from others was inappropriate because relationships became more about following the rules I put in place than enjoying friendships.
Christians make the same mistake.
For some in the faith – entire denominations in fact – Christianity is a set of rules to follow not about a relationship with Jesus based on love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness. God says be Holy for I am Holy (Leviticus 19:2) so these folks focus on meeting the standard rather than meeting Jesus. When that happens, Christianity becomes about works – the idea that somehow or another you can be good enough to please God – and not about one’s need for Jesus because we can never meet God’s standard.
Unfortunately, those who fall into the truth without love group also tend to spiritually oppress others. Instead of being brothers and sisters in Christ, each in their own distinctive walk and maturity with the Lord, truth folks almost act as if they are God’s moral police, pointing out every sin and flaw you have. By doing so they intentionally or not place themselves above you and can emotionally and spiritual damage you as they try to control your actions. Obviously, this is completely unbiblical.
Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 13 that even if he spoke the language of angels but did so without love he would simply be a banging gong. Then he goes on to explain what love is:
- Not Envious
- Not Boastful
- Not Proud
- Not Dishonoring
- Not Self-Seeking
- Not Easily Angered
- Keep no Record of Wrongs
- Rejoices in Truth
Applying this to the truth means you have compassion while telling the truth. You have empathy as you tell the truth. You tell the truth to actually help someone not because you think someone needs help. You tell the truth to honor God not to prove how smart or righteous you are. You don’t get annoyed or angry with people who falling short – you pray for them and talk with them about how God has something better for them, AND you walk with them in their struggle! Truth in love looks completely different than truth without love.
Jesus told the pharisees that they were leading people to hell because they were “legalistic” meaning they were focused on the rules people had to follow instead of loving God – rules they did not actually follow themselves!! (Matthew 23:13-15)The same holds true today; by teaching truth without love Christian leaders are sending people to hell because truth without love is judgment, is works, denies grace and mercy, and is actually an idol that puts rules ahead of relationship with Jesus.
As an accountability guy, it was a hard transition to add love to the mix in my life. Here are the steps I had to take to get there:
- God commands it so you do it!
- Embrace the fact that God’s justice is perfect, so you don’t have to be the judge.
- Lower inappropriate expectations.
- Love people where they are instead of where you wish they were in their walk.
- Don’t take offense at people’s actions.
- Correct people gently the way you would want to be corrected (ONLY THOSE WITHIN THE CHURCH!)
- Care more about their relationship with Jesus than them toeing the line!
- Understand that compared to Jesus you are worse than anyone else you see.
- Soften your heart toward God’s creation – especially those He made in His image.
- Practice bearing with people and applying 1 Corinthians 13 until it becomes natural.
A lot of people have had bad church and Christian experiences because they’ve run into truth-only people who have either offended or hurt them by their words and actions. Truth is a vital component of our faith but not without love. Without love truth is weapon.
My goal for writing yesterday and today was to help put into context the idea of truth in love and why it is so important that we Christians exercise both at once and not one at a time. Jesus showed us the way and we must all strive to be more like Him in this area.