[Love] does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.
1 Corinthians 13:6
I have had truth on the brain lately. Such thoughts remind me of my life before Christ and of the old me who sincerely believed that truth was relative. At the time, I embraced the idea of relative truth because in that way, truth did not meddle so much in my affairs.
In those days, I overlooked the fact that if truth actually was relative, someone else’s relative truth might just infringe upon my personal rights as I perceived them. In such a case, I really had no right to get fussy about it because believing in relative truth means that ALL truth is relative, not just mine.
Somehow in those days of trying to justify rebellion, I missed that starkly glaring problem of relativism. If there is not an absolute truth, and in particular an absolute standard for right and wrong, then we are all just free-floating in an undulating and endless sea of contradictory opinions.
Without some tangible and solid standard to hold fast to, there is no meaning or purpose and no direction to take. Left is as good as right in a relative world. Truth, according to the ideology of relativism, is no more than an opinion, akin to a person’s favorite color. I like turquoise, you like scarlet; murder for you but not for me. If each opinion is truth to that person, then it all carries equal weight.
The idea of relative truth is so pervasive that it has even infiltrated the Church. There are many who are sensitive to the accusations that Christians are intolerant, bigoted, and judgmental and so are afraid to take any stand at all. Others are so immersed in the culture of relativism that the are not sure what”truth” really means, are not deeply familiar with what God’s truth is, and so are easily persuaded by other ideologies. Still others are either unaware or simply do not really believe in God’s sovereignty or the authority of Scripture. The possible reasons are endless.
However, truth has a funny way of remaining truth despite a lack of understanding or belief. The fact is that as Creator, God alone is the only Being with the right to define absolute truth, moral or otherwise.
But… what has all this to do with love? Well, everything, really. I could be wrong, but it seems to me that the currently fashionable idea of “love” tends to embrace most of Paul’s definition in 1 Corinthians 13 yet omit verse 6. I don’t think this is intentional. I believe that most Christians simply don’t know what to do with that verse.
I believe that we, as a people, have largely forgotten that real, honest, heart-felt love cannot be divorced from the truth, especially in the sense of moral truth. If we truly believe that all men have immortal souls, then the close relationship between love and truth becomes incredibly clear.
Knowing that Jesus’s atoning sacrifice was given so that we may approach the throne of grace and that genuine contrition for sin and repentance are necessary components of accepting and yielding to His grace ought to compel us not only to understand what does and does not constitute “sin,” but to share it with a confused and dying world.
It’s true that Jesus is and was a loving Man, perfectly loving the Father and mankind. The earthly life of Jesus exemplifies the harmony of love and truth. He showed His love in patience and kindness; in putting the needs of others (namely all of us who have sinned) before His own and in healing and providing for the needs of many.
However, Jesus also showed His love by holding fast to the truth. That He did not rejoice in wrongdoing is clearly seen in His response to the money-changers in the temple, His admonishment to the woman caught in adultery to “Go and sin no more,” and the similar advice to the man healed beside the pool called Bethesda, among others (see John 2:15, 5:14, and 8:11).
His love did not come without a stern word of rebuke when appropriate, precisely because it was actual love. Jesus knows better than we the unqualified destructiveness of sin, especially in an eternal context. Indeed, He has watched the decay of creation from the very beginning and wrongdoing in any form has never once caused Him to rejoice.
For today, let’s rejoice in the truth that Jesus died to save sinners such as us. We can rejoice that He loves us enough to be both tender and firm, to discipline and to encourage. And we can rejoice that His truth will withstand the ages, whether it is acknowledged or not.