Love is always truthful, but being truthful is not always loving


Call me crazy, but I think that statement is missing something…and hiding something.

I think it is missing part of what love is. Love always rejoices with the truth and does not delight in evil. But it seems that there is a disconnect here in assuming that telling someone truth is therefore always an act of love. The proof-text of this statement is John 14:15, which says, “If you love me, keep my commands.” If someone is sinning, (i.e., not keeping God’s commands) the loving thing to do is always to point it out, lest you be lying but not saying anything, or be enabling the person to live the lie thinking that “such and such” a sin is okay.

Sin is never okay. It is always wrong. But truth given without grace, discernment, discretion, and apart from the Spirit’s direction can be very unloving. I have written about that at length in Lessons from Lie to Me.

I think it is hiding a sin of its own. This statement is basically a rationalization for pointing out wrong in others. And remember, to rationalize is to tell yourself rational lies. Saying, “love is truthful, therefore it is always loving to tell you the truth when you are messing up, sinning, or are blind to your failing” is masking a critical attitude and nurtures pride and self-righteousness.

Love is always concerned about helping them, not just accusing them. Love is concerned with edifying and building up the sinner in Christ, not just with identifying all the inconsistencies in his or her faith and thinking. And remember, if you are doing with a Christian (and I assume that is the case here given the John 14:15 reference), you are criticizing one of God’s anointed (2 Corinthians 1:21). Is your intent in line with addressing a person whom Jesus has endowed with such dignity? If our motive isn’t right, then telling the truth ends up being wrong. The fact is, you can sin by telling the truth. Just because you do, don’t assume you are loving.

We need to remember that Jesus said about judging others in Matthew 7:1-5 (NIV),

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

And what Paul said about it in Romans 2:1 (NIV), “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.”

And that 1 Peter 4:8 (NIV) says, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”

Love is always full of grace and full of truth. If it is graceless, it may be true, but it is not love.

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