When I have a disagreement with Paula and our fellowship is broken at some point I will know that I ought to go and apologize and make things right. I wish it weren’t so, but most of the time I don’t want to and when I do it’s not easy.
However, it’s the right thing to do and love always does what is right, even when it’s difficult and humbling. This is what it means when the Bible says that love “rejoiceth in the truth” (I Corinthians 13:6). Love embraces and revels in the truth. It keeps me on track to do what is right even when my emotions want to do otherwise.
I believe that truth is absolute and is centered in the nature of God and given to us in His revelation of Himself through His Word, the Bible. So, that becomes my standard for my behavior and decisions, even though I fall short of them sometimes. Love is both expressed and bounded by God’s truth, since He is that embodiment and Author of love.
While we can understand some of Who God is, it is impossible for us to comprehend Him and reconcile His ways (Romans 11:33-34). Our puny brains cannot contain the wisdom of an almighty God that created the universe. It’s like taking a thimble to the ocean and filling it to the brim and realizing the incredible vastness of what the thimble cannot contain. Our minds are like that thimble, able to be filled, but not able to contain the whole.
The Bible shows us that God is love and that is a very precious truth for all of us. The Bible also teaches that God is holy and just and cannot tolerate sin and must punish it. This is where we get the familiar saying that God hates sin, but loves sinners. It isn’t either/or, but both/and. To try and focus on one aspect of God’s nature to the exclusion of the other is to create a god of your own imagination and to reject the living God as He has revealed Himself in the Scriptures (Romans 1:21-25).
Love would rather hear good news about someone than bad news. That’s part of what it means when the Bible states that love “rejoiceth not in iniquity” (I Corinthians 13:6). Most of us have a tendency to believe the sensational and bad rather than hope for the good when hearing about a bad situation.
The other side of the coin is where the Bible says that love “rejoiceth in the truth” (I Corinthians 13:6). Love is more than not rejoicing in what is bad, it also rejoices in that which is good and right. One withholds from believing or saying things that will be hurtful and the latter allows the truth to guide our words and actions – no matter our feelings.
Consider that to be able to define “iniquity” (in which love does not rejoice) there must be a standard by which it is measured. That’s the rub in our culture today as the “standard” fluctuates according to a person’s whims or viewpoint. Absolute truth has given sway to there being no objective standard, but completely subjective to an individual or a circumstance.
That is why I do not believe in situational ethics. (That is, ethics/truth being determined by the situation). There are things that are absolutely right or wrong. I believe in absolute truth and that God is the Author of that truth. (By the way, people that believe that today are branded as intolerant. I have learned that some of the most intolerant people are those that claim to believe in “tolerance”. They don’t tolerate my viewpoint).
This is a major premise for the rest of what I am about to write because if it is rejected then love, like right and wrong, is defined by the eye of the beholder. Love not only believes what is right, but does what is right because it “rejoiceth in the truth” (I Corinthians 13:6). The word “rejoiceth” means “to applaud”.
Whenever I am not living according to God’s truth then I am not acting in love, but in selfishness and setting myself up as my own god. The glue of any relationships is trust and without truth there can be no trust.
Before I make an application I want to quantify that God is true and all of His actions flow from that, as should ours. Below is a summary, just a small sampling, of what the Bible states about God and His being true.
God is “abundant in goodness and truth”. (Exodus 34:6)
Everything He does is characterized and defined by truth – “He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.” (Deuteronomy 32:4)
Our ministry is to have a boundary of truth both around it and in it – “Only fear the LORD, and serve him in truth with all your heart…” (I Samuel 12:24)
God is referred to as the “LORD God of truth” (Psalm 31:5).
“For the word of the LORD is right; and all his works are done in truth”. (Psalm 33:4) Everything the Lord has done is right and based on truth.
The Bible speaks of one that is without “guile”. The word means to be crafty and deceitful. The opposite is one that is sincere and speaks the truth in His heart and with his words. Our Lord was this way – “…Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth”. (I Peter 2:22). Christ’s words were always true, sincere and without a selfish agenda.
Truth of necessity is absolute and doesn’t evolve. Something can’t be true, truer, or truest. If something has even a small element of error in it then it is not true. Of course, we’re all ignorant in different areas and may learn more of the truth and then adjust our lives to be in alignment with it. To me, that is one of the joys of being a Christian and growing as a person, husband, father, and friend.
Several months ago I was reading a web site about a Christian’s speaker and the topics on which they spoke. They made a promise when they spoke to your group that they “won’t cram theology down your throat”.
Now, I partially understand the statement if it is referring to one that speaks without kindness and is a bully. But in the strictest sense if a person bringing a Christian message doesn’t base it on truth and theology then it is just a matter of his opinion. It is vital that a person know and understand the theological teaching of the Bible not only to teach, but to be able to love like God – with mercy, kindness, grace, sacrifice, and in truth.
Remember, the Bible says that love “rejoiceth in the truth”. This means that I must love the truth before I understand what true love is. We tend to not like the truth because it reveals the dark side of our heart that has a propensity to sin (John 3:19-21). The result is that we feel guilty.
The Bible speaks of those that “received not the truth” (II Thessalonians 2:2). During the tribulation period, after the church has been raptured, people will reject the truth and choose rather to believe a lie (II Thessalonians 2:11-12).
Here’s the takeaway from this post: love is not just talking, but doing. It is not just doing what you feel is right and being sincere. It is easy to talk about truth, but not to do it; many professing Christians do this. To live this way is not to love.
“My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and truth”. (I John 3:18) Love is more than just doing whatever you want to do, not matter how sincere you might be. (I do think sincerity is very important, but not at the expense of truth).
This means I must be careful from where I receive counsel. If a person encourages you to to do that which is wrong, then they do not love you or have your best interests at heart.
True love cannot continue in lies. A simple Scripture with only sixteen words, but thirteen of them monosyllables, exhorts us to be true, but also to hate error – “Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good”. (Romans 12:9).
The word “dissimulation” means to be hypocritical. Part of that behavior includes allowing lies to guide your life. When you genuinely love someone you will hate the evil that will hurt them and will love that which is good that will help them.
The Bible says, “Ye that love the LORD, hate evil…” (Psalm 97:10).
Another verse with a different angle on the same issue – “Therefore I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things to be right; and I hate every false way.” (Psalm 119:128)
When you love someone you will do what is right and it will bring joy to them. On the other hand, living a lie makes them not trust you. When someone doesn’t trust you they will not give you their heart and you will never be close.
I have often wondered when people that cheat on their spouses marry each other how they could ever completely trust the other person. Perhaps they would say, “I love them”, but when one hasn’t been true to their previous vows how can that engender trust in any other promises that have been made.
The Apostle John wrote an affirming word to believers that reflected the joy he had in their commitment to the truth he had taught them – “I have no greater joy than to hear my children walk in truth”. (III John 4)
Years ago when one of my mentors, Dr. Wymal Porter, was speaking in our church. He taught me so much about the Bible and I will always be indebted to him. Before he began his message he gave a few preliminary remarks about his appreciation for my faithfulness. He then looked at me and said, “I have no greater joy than to hear my children walk in truth”.
This was after almost thirty years of him knowing me and watching my life. Please understand, I am not trying to puff myself up, only to emphasize the point. He was encouraged not by my skills or whatever I may have accomplished. His heart was moved because of my faithfulness to truth, a lot of it he had taught me, decades after he had known me.
One of my most precious treasures I have is the name and reputation that my parents have left to me. I’m 55 now and I have lived long enough to see the value of having a good name (Proverbs 22:1).
Mom and Dad never embarrassed me by their actions. They did right and treated other people right and it was an incredible gift and expression of their love to me. I, along with my children, have had many doors opened solely because my parents lived a life that was true and people trusted them. In being true to God and to each other they loved us.
I know of a pastor whose selfish and immoral behavior was revealed and it was devastating to his family, his church, and to the thousands of teenagers that had looked up to him through the years as he spoke in many youth conferences. He was living a lie and now sits in a prison cell because of his sin.
His life was not in alignment to the truth and the result was a lack of love that hurt people deeply and still does to this day. I’m sure doing that time when he was walking in deception that he told his family and congregation, “I love you”. But he didn’t. He loved himself and lived a lie. Small compromises became patterns and then he became emboldened to cross lines he never thought he would ever cross.
I’m not about being like that. I often tell our congregation, “If it can be done, you can do it”, and encourage them not to have a self-righteous attitude toward those that have fallen. It all begins when we excuse our disobedience and began to live a lie.
May God help each of us to be faithful to the truth and to embrace it, even when it’s painful to us. In the long run you will discover that it is the most loving thing you will ever do for yourself and those that you love the most.