Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Truth and Love

In Revelation, John writes letters to the seven churches. These letters generally praise something the church is getting right and admonish them in something they are doing less-well. As our journey-through-the-Bible finally reaches Revelation, we're going to take the next few days to look at three of these letters because the message of these three continues to be exceptionally relevant in today's culture.

First up is the church at Ephesus, who are praised for knowing how to judge rightly but admonished for forgetting to love (Revelation 2).

It's the old grace vs. truth debate, right?

Ephesus knew what was right and wrong. They knew what was from God and what wasn't. They knew who was trying and who wasn't. They knew what God expected of them, both what to do and what not to do. They were experts on truth and even, you might say, discernment (which is a branch, to some degree, of wisdom). Presented with any situation, Ephesus could figure out what was up.

But they were less adept at...applying wisdom. They could see truth plain and simple, but what they couldn't seem to see was humanity. For them, everything was black and white and nothing was flesh-colored.

That's what love is. Love is flesh-colored in a truth that is black and white. Love remembers that we are not factoids or pieces of information or commands of the law or propositions; we are human beings created in the divine image of God, each of us carrying something sacred about Him into the world. We are broken, fallen, sin-stained in a world that keeps wandering away, even though there's something essential about His goodness that we can never wander too far from.

Love sees that we're falling short, but remembers that we're doing the best we can. Truth only sees half of that. It was the problem with the Pharisees - they could look at a man and tell him all the ways that he was "wrong" but they couldn't seem to look at a man and tell him any of the ways that he was human. They could tell him all the ways he was missing the mark, but they probably didn't know if his name was Mark or James or Hymenaeus.

Love reminds us who we are and inspires us to become who we can be, which in the best of things is who God intended us to be. Truth never does that. Truth always seems to call us out for who we're not, always reminds us of what we're not. Truth seems to condemn us more often than not, at least the way we've weaponized it in our postmodern culture.

Don't get me wrong. Truth is important. It's essential. We have to know right from wrong. We have to know real from false. We have to understand what God is getting at, and Truth is an essential nature of God. It's vital to who we are as a people of faith.

But we can get so caught up in truth that we forget love. We can let our vision get so black and white that we no longer see what's human. That's what was happening at Ephesus, and it's why John writes to them. It's great, he says, that you can discern the truth. But what you need also is love.

So do we. 

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