“But speaking the truth in love…” (Ephesians 4:15)
Jonah, the prophet, provides us with an example of truth preached without “love”. Or, without true, heartfelt compassion for the people he preached to.
However, people were still saved. And Christ later honored Jonah. Despite his unloving attitude. Despite his original disobedience. Jonah actually did the best thing anyone could do for the Ninevites. The greatest thing anyone could ever do for them.
So, what would have happened if Jonah had “loved” them, had shown deep compassion for them, and then preached a “softer” message than God had commanded him to preach?
What if that softer message or a delayed message (waiting for a better opportunity at a later time) did not lead them to repentance?
Nineveh would have been destroyed. They would have died in their sins.
How “loving” would that have been?
What if a doctor knows you have cancer? He decides not to hurt your feelings. He doesn’t want you to worry. He doesn’t want you to have to spend a whole bunch of money on tests, painful treatments, hospitals, and medicines.
And he doesn’t want you to have to think about death. Not to force you to face that terrible, end-of-life experience.
So he tells you that your condition is not so bad. He is softer and gentler with you. You then like him better and are relieved that your situation is not as bad as your feared. He gives you medicines that make you feel great. And you get a strawberry sucker going out the door. What a great doctor!
And, after it is too late to stop the cancer, you die.
He has just killed you. He did what was easy for him. He did what made him look good in your eyes. He made you love him. But he ended up killing you. He felt compassion for you; but it did you no good.
We might say that error was preached in love.
How Do We Define Love?
So, can Christian love save someone? I am not asking you if they are more likely to listen to your message. Maybe they will; maybe they won’t.
I am not asking you if love is critical. I am not asking you if love is vital in all we do. I am not asking you if we should love all people.
I am trying to get beyond the typical knee-jerk reaction that people have when we start talking about love. So we don’t get bogged down at the start.
What part does love have in the whole gospel equation?
“But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.” (I Peter 1:25)
“Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” (John 17:17)
In the above verses, we see that the gospel is based upon the Word of God. Specific words add up to specific phrases which add up to specific truths. OK. Just needed to make clear that the gospel is not made of vague ideas and vague stories.
As far as man is concerned, we are each saved based upon what Christ did for us on the cross. “We love him, because he first loved us“. (I John 4:19). Man responds to God based upon the acceptance of His love for us. We believe it or we do not.
Our love for God does not save us. It is His love for us that gives us the opportunity to be saved. It is our trust in Him and His Word that saves us.
Love Does Not Replace Truth
But, when we speak of the love of Christians for the lost, or for other Christians, or for God, we are talking about an eternal fruit that only the Holy Spirit can produce within the believer. The believer cannot create that love out of thin air. Nor can he produce it by will power. Or by dedicating his flesh to that end. Love is a work of God. We allow Him to produce it in us or we do not.
Many believers think that we are under a “new law” that can be fulfilled by focusing on love in place of rules or doctrine. We just are trading the rules “focus” for the “love” focus. So we mistakenly believe that doctrine, truth, is of lesser importance now. So we can stop having to teach and follow it.
But the problem is, a Christian is no more able to do the “love” thing than the “rules” thing. Because he is stuck with the problem of a carnal nature. A nature that has, technically, been declared dead but which overcomes us when we seek to walk by our own strength.
So love is as unreachable to us as the law. We cannot follow the “Royal Law” of love any more than we can make ourselves perfect. Impossible by any means but by faith in the Lord within us. If you want to start talking about any kind of law, you must fulfill it perfectly. Otherwise you have failed. Period..
So when believers want to throw the rules and doctrine out in favor of love, they have a serious problem. A 99% of the scriptures (including the New Testament) problem.
Which leads me to believe that much of what we think of as love is nothing of the sort.
We all want to be loved. We all value the love of our wives, husbands, children or parents toward us — above all things. And we all long for the deep, love of Christian brothers and sisters toward us. And we want to have that love flowing freely from our own souls and spirits as well.
Is Love Greater Than Truth?
If you will carefully read I Corinthians 13, where it is talking about “knowledge” or “wisdom”, Paul is talking about worldly wisdom, religious wisdom, or something that is a result of a self-righteous pursuit. The great comparison in that chapter includes “faith, hope and charity”. Among these three, “charity” is the greatest in that context.
But, I Corinthians 14, Paul goes on to explain the necessity of clarity in our message. The screaming need for us to be sure to warn the lost and warn the brethren with a clear, full message. So that they know what to do in the battle. So that they do not die.
The Gospel is Comprised of Many Critical Doctrines
Believers have often been rebuked for being proud and arrogant when they have strong convictions based on the scriptures? And when we dare to express those convictions among other brothers who might disagree, we are often considered divisive and “not helpful”.
And this is because much of the church is confused regarding doctrinal truth. In fact, doctrine has become a four-letter word in most Evangelical churches. We have been taught to be “humble” and to not presume to know the truth? At least to not speak so boldly about it that we might come across as “legalistic”. Nor write about it in a blog.
We have often been “taught” that doctrine, dogma and theology are the reasons for divisions and disunity in the church. And that no one should presume to be “the only one with the truth”.
In other words, we are told to “Shut up.” And stop causing “divisions”.
Tragically, much of Evangelicalism is no longer about doctrine. Most churches are moving away from it.
But there is no gospel without it. There is no church without it. There is no true love without it.
And love has little to do with that.
And that’s the truth.
For a great sermon on this topic by Dr. John Whitcomb, check the link below: