The hopeful Republican and Democratic Presidential candidates have become quite testy with one another just before the New Hampshire primary, eagerly pointing out character flaws and ignorance and incompetence, which merely confirms the disgust many of us have toward the politicians in Washington. But the worst of this cannot match the first levels of political disagreement in our country.
Aaron Burr served as Vice President under Thomas Jefferson; Alexander Hamilton was George Washington's first Secretary of the Treasury and played a key role in developing the financial policies of the new nation. Long rivals, their rivalry grew so heated that Burr challenged Hamilton to a duel with pistols. On the dueling grounds in July 1804, Hamilton missed. Burr did not. Thus ended Burr's political career and Hamilton's life, along with influencing the direction of America. So maybe we're not as ill-tempered in politics as we have been!
The spiritual realm has similar duels on theology, with even more significant results because they shape our eternal destiny. Truth can possess a hard edge when it claims that contrary beliefs are wrong, and our culture today often resists that concept. They call us judgmental and exclusive, but absolute truth lies at the heart of following Jesus. God is real. Jesus is God, and only by following him can we get to heaven (Genesis 1:1, John 1:1-4, 14:6).
Frankly, some camp in that hard edge, so other Christian leaders have tried to soften it, hoping that we would sound more loving and nice and inclusive. Love wins, some say, and all go to heaven, even those who have never exhibited much interest in doing so. However, this ignores the very real biblical link between genuine faith and obedience (Romans 1:5, 16:26).
John Stott, the Englishman, offers a slightly different take: "Love without truth is too soft. Truth without love is too hard." And as Paul said, "Speak the truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15).
Love and truth are not antithetical. Both represent the heart of God. How could we love someone and not graciously warn them of a dangerous reality? But note the term gracious. Our conversations need to blend both: speaking the truth even when unpalatable, yet doing that with a loving manner and tone of voice.
Now, why is this crucial for growing in God? First, both represent God's heart, and the closer we get to his heart the more we reflect who he is. Second, we need both to grow into spiritual maturity. Listen to how Paul gave the result of that "Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ." Remember Stott. If we only focus on being loving, we run the risk of softness. If we only focus on speaking truth, we run the risk of hardness. But with both we grow. Then we touch others more effectively.
Kick Starting the Application
Do you tend to lean toward the hard edge of truth or toward soft love, or do you attempt to balance both? What has caused you to do that? You might want to study the passages mentioned above, or go broader than that to see the fullness of God's heart. If you tend to be weak on one side, what specific steps can you take to build both into your life?