Monday, April 13, 2009

Truth: Not the Most Important Thing

I want to begin by saying that I do appreciate what Steve Deace tries to do on his radio show, Deace in the Afternoon, on WHO radio in Des Moines. There are very few people who are so firmly rooted in their conviction as Deace is. I applaud him for trying to bring a Christian worldview to the airwaves of Iowa. That doesn’t mean that I am fan, because I am not. It is my opinion that Steve is rude, childish, and arrogant, which doesn’t serve the cause of Christ very well.

That being said I want to point out that Deace made an error on his radio program today. It isn’t the first time he has made it, which has led me to believe that it is what he truly believes. His error is the belief that truth is the most important thing. I agree that truth is important. We can all agree that it would foolish to follow something we knew to be a lie. Truth is essential and we need to pursue it the best that we can. The problem is that there is one thing, one element in life, that is more important that truth. That element is love. Consider what the apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. (verses 1-3; ESV)

The apostle Paul makes it clear that it doesn’t matter what we do, say, or understand, because if we don’t love then it doesn’t mean a thing. Love is the key. Don’t miss understand, life would be meaningless if we had love, but did not have the truth, and so this is not an either or thing, but it is a priority thing. When it comes to influence, people will forget the arguments that we make, but they will remember the time we pour into their lives. Love not only builds the bridge over which truth travels, but it also adds credibility to the truth that we teach. Think of it this way: Love makes truth more effective.

When Jesus dictated to the apostle John the message that was to be read to the church at Ephesus, He focused on this issue of love and truth. Revelation 2:1-7 reads:
“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands.
“‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name's sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God." (Revelation 2:1-7; ESV)

Jesus finds many good things about this church family located in Ephesus. They were hard workers, they did not tolerate false teachings, they endured hardships, and they hated the works of the Nicolaitans. This was a church family that fought hard for truth and correct doctrine.

Despite all the good things they were doing, Jesus found something that was very wrong. The problem was so serious that Jesus warned them that if they did not repent then they would be removed from His presence. What was wrong with the Ephesian Church? Their problem was that they had lost their first love. They weren’t worshiping God like they should and this flowed into the reality that they were not loving people the way they should. They stood for truth, but that truth was meaningless because it wasn’t founded on love. Jesus doesn't tell them to give up the truth, but to return to love. Again we see that it is the combination of truth and love. The two go together.

To love doesn’t mean that we accept everyone and that we don’t hold people to standards, nor does it mean that we don’t confront those who are wrong or speak God’s Word to the world. It does mean that we do it with a humble heart, a gentle spirit, and a compassionate attitude. We have to be very aware that our conduct and our tone influence the way the truth is heard. The follow of Christ realizes his/her entire life is an exhibit of God’s love and truth.

Truth is important, but it is not the most important thing. What gives truth its power are not facts and arguments, but love. We can have correct doctrine and sacrifice our lives for the cause of Christ, but if we don’t have love then it means nothing. There are many important parts of the Christian life: truth, holiness, integrity, faith, and hope, but the greatest feature of Christianity is love.

*I want to point out that I updated this on April 14, 2009. I wrote the original in ten minutes on April 13 so I could post something before I went to bed, and I don’t think I was very fair to Steve Deace (even though it is very unlikely he will see this), and I wanted to revise my initial thoughts.


Stan said...

I'm not sure it's fair to suggest that truth is second (or anywhere lower) to love. The Bible seems to intertwine the two. Paul writes in 1 Cor 13, "[Love] does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth" (1 Cor 13:6). The prophet, Zechariah, says, "Love truth and peace" (Zech 8:19). Paul tells us, "Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ" (Eph. 4:15). John commands "Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth" (1 John 3:18). Peter says quite clearly "Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart" (1 Peter 1:22).

I think the Bible interlinks them so that truth produces love and love includes truth. I don't think you can reduce them to one over the other. They require each other.

"If we forget to love and worship God and to love and serve our neighbor, then it doesn’t matter what else we do."

Jesus said, "God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth" (John 4:24). love, worship, and service apart from truth is just as worthless as truth apart from love.

Paul said...

Stan, I agree with you, that is why I revised the post. Thanks for pointing it out, appreciate your opinion.

Katherine said...

I was going to say what Stan said, but he beat me to it. Thank goodness it is isn't a dichotomy.

Paul said...

Thanks for keeping me honest. One of the things about blogging is that you can post something that isn't all the way thought through.

Just so everyone is clear on my point: Love is what gives truth its effectiveness. Therefore love combined with love is more effective that just truth alone.

So if anyone is unclear what I was trying to accomplish here, this is what I was attempting.

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