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Just a few weeks ago the Methodist Church, which represents over 12 Million Christians in America, met in St. Louis, for their General Conference. In a special session they voted on what was called The Traditional Plan, which kept church rules in place that disallowed same-sex marriages and gay clergy.

In one presentation, Nancy Denardo, a lay delegate from the western part of Pennsylvania, said,

“Galatians 6:1, brothers & sisters, ‘if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual, should restore him gently. But watch yourself as you also may be tempted.’ And in verse 7, ‘Do not be deceived, God cannot be mocked. A person reaps what they sow.’ Friends, please stop sowing seeds of deceit. The word became flesh. Not the flesh becomes the word. I’m truly sorry if the truth of the gospel hurts anyone. But know that I, and those who support the Traditional Plan, love you enough to tell you the truth. God gives you freewill, choose wisely, choose God’s true words.”

This is a great example of using truth as a weapon. Here are a few things I’d point out here:

1. There is no humility or recognition that “the truth of the gospel” and “Nancy’s understanding of the truth of the gospel” aren’t the same thing. Because of that, this isn’t a conversation toward mutual understanding but a choice to accept my interpretation or be wrong.

2. This conflates telling the truth with love. When we love, we earn the right to tell people our opinion.

Telling people our opinion isn’t the same thing as love.

When we haven’t earned the right with our blood, sweat, tears, and time, truth-telling is most often received as judgment. Prior proof of love transforms opinion-telling from judgment into love. Without deep trust that you truly want me to win in life, and have shown me that by your investment in me, “truth-telling” becomes a Trojan Horse, self-confirmation in the guise of “doing this for your own good.”

3. On some level, whether something is loving or not should depend on whether the person feels loved. I understand that sometimes we do things for our children that they don’t feel as loving. But we’re not talking about children. We are talking about full grown adults who need to be treated as such. And I understand that love isn’t just a feeling. But feelings are messages – they tell us something. And we need to listen to people who tell us when something we think is supposed to be loving – isn’t.

If someone has to agree with your entire belief system to understand, and agree with, what you mean by love, then it’s probably not love. Even more clearly, if someone who isn’t a Christian interprets your actions as hateful because they don’t “get it,” then you’re probably the one who doesn’t “get it.”

We live our lives feeling that there is a tension between truth and love. But there’s only a tension if we believe truth and love are equals and opposites. They are not. Love is the bottom line. When we pursue a life of love, we will find truth along the way. When we pursue truth, we do not always find love along the way. When Jesus tells us the greatest commandment, it’s not truth-telling, it’s not fact-based, it’s not doctrinal. It’s love.

Want to keep the conversation going on truth? Check out our newest course: Is the Bible True?

Jared Byas, M.A.

As a former teaching pastor and professor of philosophy and biblical studies, he speaks regularly on the Bible, truth, creativity, wisdom, and the Christian faith. Tweets at @jbyas