Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Love: Building on Truth

Love...does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth... - 1 Cor 13:6

IX. The matter of its joy and pleasure is here suggested: 1. Negatively: It rejoiceth not in iniquity. It takes no pleasure in doing injury or hurt to any. It thinks not evil of any, without very clear proof. It wishes ill to none, much less will it hurt or wrong any, and least of all make this matter of its delight, rejoice in doing harm and mischief. Nor will it rejoice at the faults and failings of others, and triumph over them, either out of pride or ill-will, because it will set off its own excellences or gratify its spite. The sins of others are rather the grief of a charitable spirit than its sport or delight; they will touch it to the quick, and stir all its compassion, but give it no entertainment. It is the very height of malice to take pleasure in the misery of a fellow-creature. And is not falling into sin the greatest calamity that can befal one? How inconsistent is it with Christian charity, to rejoice at such fall! 2. Affirmatively: It rejoiceth in the truth, is glad of the success of the gospel, commonly called the truth, by way of emphasis, in the New Testament; and rejoices to see men moulded into an evangelical temper by it, and made good. It takes no pleasure in their sins, but is highly delighted to see them do well, to approve themselves men of probity and integrity. It gives it much satisfaction to see truth and justice prevail among men, innocency cleared, and mutual faith and trust established, and to see piety and true religion flourish.
- Matthew Henry

This verse needs to be stressed. It's one of the hardest aspects of love because truth is painful. It's the steel rod that keeps love unwavering. Far too many times I have witnessed Christians compromising in this area, particularly in young believers who have not been counseled correctly by leaders or pastors (or they are simply too rebellious and prideful to accept correction). I, too, have compromised in this area and can personally testify to the sharp sting of trying to love without truth. A meaningless, fruitless, selfish, hedonistic lifestyle follows when, in trying to love, we abandon the truth.
Time and again, I have witnessed a reoccurring reaction(s) whenever sin has taken hold and made itself known: the Christian feels ashamed and sorry for the deed done - the Christian apologizes - the Christian points fingers of blame and hides it underneath their tears and vocalizing self-pity - the Christian quotes Scripture or some holy word about God and His love and grace to feel or make known some sense of change or justification - the Christian brushes the sin under the rug - the Christian continues on in the sin, but does so in such a way (after “dealing with it” and giving themselves a little “bad-boy” slap on their own hand) so that it does not appear as sin to human sight - in doing so, the Christian takes upon certain responsibilities, commitments, or any number of outward changes to ensure others and themselves that they’ll never mess up like that again. Unfortunately, it is the usual case that Christian will reward himself/herself by continuing after the passions and lusts of their flesh. They justify themselves and, when they have “redeemed” themselves in their own eyes, they reward themselves. Let me tell you, sin is very deceitful. If we don’t have a mind and heart that is constantly and daily refreshed, disciplined, and washed in the Spirit and the Word, we cannot see these things. This is why, when sin messes up our lives, we are caught utterly by surprised. If our hearts and mind aren’t guarded by the Word, taking every thought captive in obedience to Christ, sin can very subtly cause total devastation in our lives.

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” - 1 John 1:8

And then there is the Christian who witnesses the sin of a brother or sister and refuses to speak the truth to them. They feel so sad for them, so moved by their tears, shame, and voice of self-pity. In desiring to extend grace and love to them, they overlook the seriousness of the brother’s sin. Instead of guiding that brother to the Gospel, to the repentance that Christ spoke of in Scripture (becoming a humbled, broken-hearted, and self-denying child of God - who turns away from sin and learns to deal with it at its source - their very heart - before the throne room of God day and night), they further the sin of the brother by encouraging them. They encourage them with words and actions that sound helpful, loving, and wise on the surface, but, in essence, they are merely drawing the focus to “self” - therefore, furthering the brother’s sin. They don’t deal with the problem at its root (which is our hearts - it’s always our hearts - it’s always unholy desires and beliefs that we have gone ignored, un-named, and un-examined by the light of the Word); they’re merely interested in helping their brother clean themselves up OUTWARDLY (key word) and to feel better about themselves.
This is why most modern Christian ministries have become vain, futile, and fruitless in the light of eternity. We never want to deal with sin at its root because the process of doing that is painful. It requires repentance and growing in that repentance. If we ourselves don’t want to deal with sin at its root, why would we counsel others in doing so? Repentance has never been a favorite of humanity. But so it is with love that, if we seek to love as Christ does, there needs to be a meek and humble willingness to build on Truth - the Word - Scripture - Christ Himself. And this is a hard word because our very nature (even after being led to Christ), still fleshly and self-serving, is averse to such things.

"Think with me for a moment about education and relationships. Some of you care deeply that…{we do} not ignore or marginalize relationships of love. They are essential in real, lasting, life-changing education. Amen.
So I turn to the Bible. I find in place of the words, "education" and "relationship," the words, "truth" and "love." So what does the Bible say about how truth and love relate to each other? There are at least four ways of talking about this relationship.
1. Truth aims at love. "The goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith" (1 Timothy 1:5). Note: instruction is not the goal, love is. Instruction is the means. It is subordinate. Truth serves love. Education serves relationships - mainly the relationship between us and God, but also between Christian and Christian, and between us and unbelievers. The "goal" of all our education is love. "Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider one another how to stir up to love and good deeds, . . . encouraging one another" (Hebrews 10:23-25, literal translation). The aim of our "considering one another" and "encouraging one another" is that we stir up love. We mingle insight into "the confession of our hope" with insight into "each other," and the effect is stirring each other to love. The truth of doctrine and truth of people-watching unite to aim at love.
2. Love aims at truth. "Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth" (1 Corinthians 13:6). Love is glad when truth is spoken. Therefore love aims at truth. It supports truth. "Out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote to you with many tears; not so that you would be made sorrowful, but that you might know the love which I have especially for you" (2 Corinthians 2:4). Here is an example of how love aims at truth. Paul is filled with love and it compels him to write a letter that was hard, and caused sorrow in him and in the Corinthians. But it needed to be said. So love said it. Love speaks the truth personally and doctrinally.
3. Love shapes how to speak the truth. "Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ" (Ephesians 4:15). There is an unloving way to speak the truth. That kind of truth-speaking we should repudiate. But there is a way to speak the truth in love, and that we should seek. It is not always a soft way to speak, or Jesus would have to be accused of lack of love in dealing with some folks in the Gospels. But it does ask about what is the most helpful thing to say when everything is considered. Sometimes what would have been a hard word to one group is a needed act of love to another group, and not a wrong to the group addressed. But in general, love shapes truth into words and ways that are patient and gentle (2 Timothy 2:24-25).
4. Truth shapes how to show love. "By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome" (1 John 5:2). It is not always obvious which acts are loving. So John tells us some truth will help us know if our acts are loving. One truth test for our love is whether we are keeping the commandments of God toward people, In other words, love cannot be cut loose from the truth of God's will. Truth shapes how to show love. Let us pray that God will cause his love and truth to abound and mingle in us in all these ways for the glory of his truth-filled love and love-filled truth."
- John Piper

"My prayer…is that we put truth and love (orthodoxy and unity, facts and feelings, reality and relationships) in biblical order. For example, Paul said in 1 Timothy 1:5, “the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” Notice the order: “instruction” is the foundation and leads to “love” through purity and faith. Or again consider the order in 1 Peter 1:22, “You have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren.” Again, truth precedes and transforms the soul for the sake of love. Even in the spectacular revelation of 1 John 4:8 that “God is love,” “God is” provides the foundation for “God is love.” For the sake of love, let’s cherish the truth. Then it may be said of us, “The church of the living God [is] the pillar and support of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15)."

- John Piper

Holy Father, root us in Your divine truth. Make us to love as You do. Get SELF out of the picture and put our feelings and subjective mindset in its place! Purify us to love in obedience to Your righteous, holy Truth. Don't let us compromise anymore in the way that we love and desire to show Your love. For your Holy namesake, teach us how to love like this - that Your majestic glory may be seen and known and praised!

Matthew Henry's Commentary on 1 Corinthians 13

Truth and Love

Cherishing Truth for the Sake of Love