There is a misconception within Christianity that you either speak in love or you speak in truth. However, it's imperative to recognize the importance of imparting truth in love. As a Christian, truth should always come out of love. It is also important to recognize that love with the absence of truth is not authentic love. The two – love and truth – should work together when done properly and from the right heart.
It is important to recognize that Jesus approaches sin with love. A good example of Jesus responding to sin in love and truth is John 7:53-8:11. When the scribes and Pharisees brought the adulteress woman before Jesus, he interacted with her in a loving way. He saved her from being stoned, did not condemn her and told her to go and sin no more. He spoke in love by protecting her, not condemning her. He spoke in truth by calling her to flee the sin of adultery.
Jesus not only spoke lovingly but acted lovingly. He did not just say to the Pharisees, “No I don’t condemn her, but you guys can.” He said, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7). He even treated the scribes and Pharisees in a loving, gentle and truthful way, which prevented them from stoning her.
Jesus has every right to be angry about our sin and demand repentance from us. He died for our sin so that he could be with us (John 3:16). Yet, even still, he responds in love and grace to the adulteress sin of the woman and the prideful sin of the religious leaders. Jesus shows us the power of speaking love and truth and allowing them to work together to bring transformation to our lives and the lives of others. His love in no way condones sinful behavior, but it draws us to him through the power of his forgiveness. It is his love that enables us to act out a life of obedience.
Speaking the Truth in Love
“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” – Ephesians 4:15-16
There is so much power in love. Would you be more likely to leave your sin if someone told you how wrong and messed up you are? What if, instead, someone who had loved you well and was close to you explained that they cared for you and wanted you to be happier and safer, that they aren’t mad at you but that they want to help you grow to be a stronger and healthier person? The latter comes from a place of genuine concern, authentic love and a desire for one to be well. It does not come from a prideful place of wanting to convict others and show how right you are. Before we try to speak truth or convict someone, we must first love and show it in our actions. Conviction and truth spoken in deep love is what truly transforms and heals souls. Just look at the cross and the impact Christ’s sacrificial love has on us.
It’s important to also recognize that some people don’t like the cycle of sin they’re in, but are stuck, blinded and being tempted and attacked by the enemy. So, to respond in more hate, aggression and persecution is no way to help someone. Responding in grace, in loving actions and true godliness is helpful.
People need love and truth together. Loving someone and idly watching them live in a sin that is hurting them is not loving. Telling someone they’re living in sin while not being loving is not helpful either. But when we speak the truth in love, true transformation can happen.
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