Believing in Absolute Truth Should Make Us More Loving
When someone becomes convinced they are right and others are wrong, quite often that person will become rigid, narrow-minded, angry, intolerant, proud, and self-righteous. It makes sense how this can happen. If I have the truth and you don’t, then why wouldn’t that manifest into ugly proselytizing, distrust of people different from me, or even outright fear and hatred of those who would oppose me? Who likes a dogmatic ideologue?
One way that the world has tried to overcome this is by rejecting the idea of truth altogether. If there is no absolute truth, then nobody can claim to have the truth. Then we can all agree to disagree and simply get along. I can respect what you believe is true, you can respect what I believe is true, and we can move along with our lives.
Interestingly, this hasn’t worked. Maybe it could work in our interpersonal relationships, a strange don’t-ask-don’t-tell arrangement concerning issues most dear to us, resulting in a vapid peace without deep understanding or potential for conversation. However, on a macro-level this may be the beginning of our descent into madness. In our post truth world, we experience the strangeness of “alternative facts.” Honestly, when I try to figure out what is happening in the government, I don’t know what to believe. I remember blatant lies from the previous administration, and I see some from the present. Meanwhile people on both sides are digging in their heels to defend the indefensible. When society says, “create your own truth” and “morality is merely a social construct” it doesn’t surprise me to find everyone using political force to get their truth and their morality to the forefront. The church isn't always better than this, either.
All of this is just context to explain why I was blown away by 1 Peter 1:22 this week. It says, “having purified your souls by obedience to the truth [emphasis added] for a sincere brotherly love [emphasis added, again!], love one another earnestly from a pure heart.” The word truth is the Greek word ἀληθείας, which means literally “facts in accordance with what actually happened.” Contrary to what we experience in the world, Peter says believing the Christian truth will manifest itself in sincere, pure love.
How can this be? It is because this “truth” is the message that God came to earth as a man who died for his enemies. The “truth” we believe is a message of love. It should never make us judgmental, because it tells us that God is judge, not us. It should never make us jealous, because according to it we have all the riches of Christ and will inherit all things. It should never spur us on toward relational discord, because it commands us to “live at peace with all men.” It should not make us angry because it tells us that “the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” It should not make us proud because humility is the basis of entrance into God’s kingdom. It may make us narrow minded, but it won’t make us close eared, because it teaches us “be quick to listen and slow to speak.” Embracing the uncompromising truth of the Gospel will make us love others deeply. It throws us into a life of service, sacrifice, love, and understanding.
Then what about all those religious zealots who missed the memo? I will just leave you a quote from G.K. Chesterton: “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult, and left untried.” I hope we can live worthy of the calling we have received.
A prayer: God grant us forgiveness for the ways we, your church, have failed to live out all of your teaching. It is our sin that we, who claim to be Jesus' disciples, do not show the same love to the world as he did. At times we have been dogmatic with a desire simply to be right. We have been quick to speak and slow to listen. Help us to walk in the path of Jesus and his love. We again commit ourselves to your truth, and ask that our lives would reflect the love it requires from us. We pray this for the sake of God's kingdom, in Jesus' name. Amen.