There is a trap in the pursuit of truth, and many pastors, professors, and Christians in general have fallen into it. I have fallen into it, and over the past four years or so, am trying to climb my way out of the pit.
The trap is this: if we are not careful, the pursuit of truth gets in the way of loving others.
For me, it happened this way:
In Bible College and Seminary, I was assigned many books to read and papers to write. Seminary was all about accuracy, truth, dotting every i, crossing every t, making sure I had the proper word count, and writing in Turabian format.
In class, we had discussions about election and predestination, open theism, inerrancy and inspiration of Scripture, millennialism, tribulationalism, dispensationalism, infra-, supra-, and sublapsarianism and many other “very important” subjects that you discuss every day over dinner.
At this time , I was working as an editor, where I sought out spelling, grammar, and punctuation mistakes in newsletters, theological journals, books, commentaries, and websites. I was entirely focused on searching and destroying tiny mistakes and errors, like a misplaced period, or an extra space.
Much of this crept into my every day life as well. I was so caught up in being right, so focused on being accurate, so intent on discovering and speaking truth, so engaged in answering questions (that nobody was really asking), that I forget that that truth is not end in itself. Love is the goal of truth.
In my pursuit of truth, I often neglected to love others. I forgot that while truth is important, truth in a vacuum causes arrogance and pride. I forgot that God gave us truth to help free people from bondage, rejection, and fear.
It is not that we can sacrifice truth on the altar of love, but somehow, both are needed to live like Jesus, and love others in this world. Our entire lives, I think, are spent learning to balance truth and love.
Have you ever fallen into the trap of truth? Maybe you have gone the other way, and have let truth slide in the name of love. What suggestions do you have for balancing truth and love?
This post is based on the Grace Commentary for Luke 6:6-11.
This post reminds me of the pastor I knew who could stand no error in doctrine/theology or in the church bulletin or newsletter. One day I sat in his office while he proofread the bulletin and asked him if he knew anything about a certain man who attended the church for whom I had no contact information.
The pastor said he had heard a few weeks previously that the man was in the hospital, presumably dying. I asked the pastor if he or anyone else had visited the man in the hospital. The pastor looked at me rather incredulously and replied “No, he’s not a member and doesn’t even attend regularly.” (I later learned that the man had die a week or more before my conversation with the pastor.)
Jeremy Myers says
Wow. Searching for errors in the bulletin while neglecting people who are dying. I hope he found some BIG mistakes in that bulletin.
Steve Reed says
I did this a lot early on and wish I hadn’t. Without love, truth certainly does make room for arrogance. I dotted a lot of other peoples’ I’s and crossed their T’s. Funny, not one of them sees things my way as a result.
Jeremy Myers says
Yes, it often seems the search for truth is to help other people find our truth…. not to correct any false ideas we ourselves might believe.