It is imperative for us to be on the alert for false dichotomies as we are going through life and engage in theological conversations. A false dichotomy makes the mistake of limiting a scenario to only two options when there are more available. As an illustration, if you were to leave a comment on my blog telling me I could either eat sushi or alligator tongue, my response would be to assert that is a false dichotomy because I have more options on the table than raw fish and a piece of a reptile’s mouth! Thus, the answer most likely would be to assert I will have a nice, homecooked, traditional supper instead of the choices you gave. Yet, the point is that you laid down a false dichotomy that needed to be demonstrated in order for me to get out of eating something I do not desire to consume.
Likewise, many in our evangelical culture today believe that in several scenarios throughout life, you can either be truthful or loving, but that these two are often mutually exclusive. They would claim it would be unloving for you to clearly call someone struggling with homosexual lust to repent of that sin and walk in obedience to Christ by His grace according to Scripture. Like my sushi versus alligator dilemma, this example also is a false dichotomy. It is setting love and truth as contrasts, opposing one another and fighting against each other. What I want to humbly contend is that truth and love are not enemies, but intimate friends woven together in perfect harmony. The way out of this false dichotomy is to understand the reality that love leads you to humbly and courageously proclaim the truth as well as live according to it. But, we must ask the question, is that approach biblical? It is to that, my friends, we now turn our attention!
The Divine Character
Who could deny Jesus Christ is the personification of love? He is literally the One who came to lay His own life down for His people. John plainly says that “God is love (1 John 4:16).” Undoubtedly, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit are marked by love. If the false dichotomy used by many in our culture today is correct, regarding the idea truth and love are mutually exclusive, then we are left with a perplexing dilemma. If God is love, but not truth, then how could we ever obtain true knowledge of His love? How shall we know God is loving if He is not also truthful? Hypothetically, assume for a mere moment God was supposedly loving but not also truthful. Then, how could we know with certainty He was not lying to us when He says He is loving? Do you see? Truth and love go together in the divine character. Because God is truthful we know He is loving, and it is precisely because of the profound depths of His love that He speaks the truth!
This line of thinking is not a mere inference based upon Scripture, it is explicitly found in the text of God’s Word. We read:
“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” -John 14:6
Notice a couple of points here in this text. First, Christ identifies Himself as the way, and the truth, and the life. That statement is critical because He who is love also says He is truth. There is no false dichotomy in the thinking of our Lord, truth, and love go together in His perfect character. Subsequently, He also teaches the reality No one comes to the Father except through me. Some will object by inquiring if Jesus is not unloving in this text by saying it is only through Him individuals come into a saving and eternal relationship with the Father? The reality is what would be unloving for Him is to hide this truth. Because Christ is the only way of salvation, it would be evil and unloving of Him to point others to someone or something other than Himself for their redemption. However, because Christ is perfectly, righteous, holy, just, and good, He clearly proclaims the truth. It is His love which drives Him to declare the exclusive salvation found in Himself. Again, love and truth are not against one another in this text, but perfectly working together.
As Paul is writing to Timothy, his son in the faith, he is doing so in the context of the young pastor fighting many battles within his ministry. A particularly intriguing text for us to consider is 2 Timothy 2:22-26:
“So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.” -2 Timothy 2:22-26
Now, in verse 22, among several other character qualities, Paul tells Timothy to pursue love. Then, he launches into a discussion counseling him not to get involved in foolish controversies, but to be kind to all, teach, be patient, and correct his opponents gently. What is the motivation for Timothy in correcting those who are opposing him and sound doctrine? It is so that God may grant them repentance and they might come to a knowledge of the truth. Truth and love are tied together in Paul’s theology. Love leads Timothy to gently correct those opposing him so that they might know the truth, God’s truth, pure divine truth! Paul wants this motivation to be present in Timothy so that he will take this action so that these individuals perverting the truth might escape Satanic snares. We saw truth and love interwoven in God’s character. Now, in this text, we see them united together in perfect harmony when Paul is guiding Timothy as to how he should act towards those opposing sound doctrine. Now, we must seek to apply these biblical passages in our own day!
Living With Truth and Love
Our society, indeed even many professing evangelicals, wants us to believe truth and love are like oil and water, they don’t mix. As we live in that environment, we must double down to ensure we have biblical convictions on this matter. Particularly, on the issues of homosexuality and transgenderism, we are outright told, or encouraged, not to speak the truth because to do so is hateful. However, Christ spoke the truth, Paul spoke the truth, and the Bible is clear on this matter that truth and love go together. It is not unloving to speak the truth about sin, or any other issue, it is cowardly not to do so. Obedience to Christ and fidelity to Him dictates we speak truth, like Timothy, so that those opposing sound doctrine might be granted accurate knowledge by God. Homosexuality is clearly deemed as unnatural in Romans 1:24-27. Humanity is not free to create its own identity as the transgender movement would assert. The Creator God made this world and He is sovereign over it. It is He who assigns to each individual their gender, either male or female, there are no other genders, there can be no changing of genders, and there is no lack of clarity on this issue from Scripture or the created world which God has made.
But, why share such truths? We do so because we want to see individuals set free. We want to say with the Apostle Paul such were some of you. He writes:
“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” -1 Corinthians 6:9-11
We as believers can thank God that He has saved us from our sins and we now live in the reality of His grace in Christ. It is our heart’s desire and passion for others to come to that same point. Believers can look at the homosexual, the thief, the murderer, and all sinners, and we can say without hesitation that the Lord Jesus Christ is powerful to save, He is mighty to sanctify you after you are given salvation, and once you are redeemed you can know with certainty you shall be brought to Himself for all eternity. There is no sin which cannot be atoned for by the work of our Lord. A sinful thought, tendency, or inclination that cannot be overcome by the power of the Lord has never existed nor will it ever. Paul was a murderer . . . but he was saved by Christ. He clearly says there were homosexuals who had been saved, these individuals are no longer identified as homosexuals, but as being in Christ. They died to that lifestyle, it was no more part of their identity. It is love for the Lord, passion for His glory, and love for others which prompts us to declare the truth on all these issues. And, it prompts us to call sinners to repent. There is no false dichotomy between truth and love, they are united together in the perfection of the character of our God who is powerful to save and gracious to us as His people! Proverbs 27:6 states:
“Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” -Proverbs 27:6
We close on this passage because it shows the reality that loving friends are willing, to tell the truth, while enemies continually flatter. These “wounds” from a friend prompt us to turn and walk down the path of life, whereas the “kisses” from the enemy would have us go down the path of the flesh leading to destruction. I would have one friend who will call me to repentance when it is necessary than one thousand who will pile on flattery. Because that one friend has demonstrated true biblical love for my soul based on a heart for God’s glory. May we be such individuals who will humbly speak the truth out of a heart of love. Do not be the one who multiplies kisses like an enemy, instead, strive to be that individual who speaks the truth even when it is incredibly difficult and even costly to do so. This is our calling before God, let us be faithful to this end seeing the beauty of both truth and love!