Christlike Convictions: Balancing Love & Truth
By Jerry D. Scott
June 23, 2013
The young man was passionate, stating his convictions in unambiguous terms. To him, it was an issue of stark black and white, no room for compassion!
Then I pointed out a person sitting about 5 feet away who was living out what the young man condemned. Thankfully, my friend was not so self-righteous as to be unaware of how his words were heard. He blushed as he realized how judgmental and condemning he was being.
Truth and love — are they in conflict or are they complementary? Need we toss our convictions about what is right and true overboard in order to be loving and accepting? Or, flipping that around, need we jettison love and respect for others to remain committed to our convictions about the truth?
Christians living in a culture of tolerance find themselves in this struggle all the time. Those with a high view of scriptural authority do not have the luxury of rewriting passages that deal with sexual behavior, with divorce, with roles in the family, with discrimination, with materialism, even with the exclusive claims of Christ as Savior.
The Word speaks to these issues, compelling us to yield our will to God’s will. There is truth to be found, and the Lord promises we will find His highest purpose when we submit ourselves to Him. Yet, in the middle of this, the Gospels show us a life of love, illustrated clearly in the Man who is Truth personified, yet One full of deeply authentic love for all.
In John 8, we learn about the powerful transformation that comes when truth and love act in concert. A woman was dragged before Jesus by men who claimed to love the truth! “She is a sinner,” they said without thought for her. “What are You going to do about it?” they challenged Him.
The woman was an adulterer. There was no question about her guilt. But the Lord saw more than a “sin” standing in front of Him. He saw a person.
“Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger in the dirt. They kept at him, badgering him. He straightened up and said, ‘The sinless one among you, go first: Throw the stone.’ Bending down again, he wrote some more in the dirt” (John 8:6-8, The Message).
Why did Jesus doodle in the dirt? Where was His sense of urgency?
I believe our first mistake in our love of the truth is feeling like we have to fix all the wrong in others and in ourselves today. But salvation is really a kind of healing, and it’s a process. Need we wade into somebody’s life, swinging the sword of truth, when we barely know them or their situation? Jesus called on these men to recognize their own need too.
Truth is much more complex when we see it in the context of our own duplicity of nature! After the men’s hearts were pierced by the Spirit’s conviction and they wandered off quietly, Jesus turns to the woman. He does not minimize her choices to sin. Instead, He offers her love and a challenge.
“Jesus straightened up and asked her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ ‘No one, sir,’ she said. ‘Then neither do I condemn you,’ Jesus declared. ‘Go now and leave your life of sin’” (John 8:10,11, NIV).
Sometimes the most loving thing we can do is take some time to doodle in the dirt. While we’re at it, we pray, we think, we listen, and we learn to be led by the Spirit.
The glory of God’s judgment is that it is not set “in the moment” but emerges from the full context of our lives. Yes, God holds us accountable for our choices. The Man who hung on the cross in love is also the One who sits on the Judgment Seat. But, in His infinite wisdom, He weaves all the threads of our lives together. He sees the whole picture, knowing why we did what we did and knowing how we might have made a better choice. Ultimately, He is our Advocate! It makes me want to shout, “Hallelujah! What a Savior!”
Here’s a word from the Word. Notice the uncompromising truth set in contrast to the amazing love. I pray it will give you the same kind of hope I find in the promise of salvation and that it causes both you and me to be people who know how to take some time to doodle in the dirt before we take on all those “sinners” who live around us.
“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.
“My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense — Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. We know that we have come to know Him if we obey his commands. The man who says, ‘I know Him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in Him. But if anyone obeys his Word, God’s love is truly made complete in him” (1 John 1:8 through 2:5).
JERRY D. SCOTT is senior pastor of Faith Discovery Church (Assemblies of God) in Washington, N.J. He writes regularly for Daily Boost, the free Pentecostal Evangel electronic devotional available Monday through Friday.
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