Love Without Truth is a Lie

The Good Samaritan account in Luke 10 isn’t as simple as it appears. Is it always okay to help others? As much as I would love for all human interactions to be as cordial as Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood, most of us would have to admit that there are some people that more than get our goat. In the preface to Jesus’ parable about being a true neighbor, Jesus asked the expert in the law to name the two greatest commandments in the Law and he answered from Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

However, does the fulfillment of the two great commandments to love God and love neighbor sometimes outweigh both common sense and responsibility? Jesus exhibited radical hospitality and we’re grateful. Without his grace we would all be left out and unforgiven, but should we just love without regard to expectations that those we love ought to act better than they do? A strict interpretation of radical hospitality might be downright stupid or dangerous.

The same Jesus also said that we should not “throw our pearls before swine” (Matthew 7:6). Sometimes I want to just walk away and disengage from some piggish people. Other times I rationalize my lack of compassion. Most of us have been taken advantage of by ne’er-do-wells, users, posers, vagrants, and the like. Do we go ahead and help them and contribute to their bad habits, or do we say “no,” and allow them to fend for themselves. No wonder many of us walk to the other side of the road and keep our eyes straight ahead. Christian ethics is complicated!

Love and acceptance have become synonymous and I wonder if that’s the best thing. Accepting harmful behavior doesn’t really help anyone. Some of us who are caught between compassion and holiness end up as little more than tolerant. Tolerating someone doesn’t sound or feel like love, does it? Preachers and ministers of the Gospel are experts at toleration. We have to tolerate people over and over again, and often slip into a passive-aggressive reaction to recalcitrant parishioners. We dread to call that irregular person back. Our hesitation to go see them is quite apparent. They don’t easily get a shoulder to cry on by anyone. Instead they get a cold or reluctant lukewarm shoulder. Is this right? Hardly.

What are we to do? We all have leeches that suck the life out of us. As much as we want to kill them with kindness, offer them money just to muster them away, or give them some of our time, is this really what we’re supposed to do? Is love always a roll-over and give into the demands of someone else kind of situation, or does tough love enter into the interaction? Tough love is something that God does all the time, and we do, too, if we are being responsible.

God disciplines us with repercussions and consequences of our failures. Parents love their children enough to say “No!” if they want to do something dangerous or might hurt themselves or someone else. The Good Samaritan risked time and expense to be sure, and so did the innkeeper who only had the Samaritan’s word that he was going to come back and reimburse any costs he might incur in tending to the poor victim. This may be a significant clue: love is real when it risks.

This parable of loving God and loving neighbor has morphed into a syrupy “Love, Love, Love” that isn’t really accurate or risky. It’s little more than an automatic behavior that appeases an immediate need. A love that is always accepting without any expectation of transformed behavior or thinking is the worst thing we can do. To quote a seminary classmate, “Sometimes the most compassionate act you can perform is to tell people the truth they need to hear.” Mushy roll-over-and-play-dead acquiescence can be the most terrible way to respond to someone in need. Just as truth without love is a lie, so is love without truth!

19 thoughts on “Love Without Truth is a Lie

  1. AMEN and AMEN!
    Thank you so much for sharing these thoughts.
    I have struggled with this dilemma for some time now, as our society has changed so, and love seems to equal accepting “whatever”.
    That tough love which used to be prescribed for difficult situations, now seems to defined as hatred. The world seems to have gone upside down and as the Old Testament says – “they did what was right in their own eyes”…not following God’s ways, only their own.
    The truth is really the TRUTH – Jesus said it…speaking of Himself….and to share truth is to share love, God’s love…and shared with His love, not harshness or judgment. The Truth when shared with God’s love will hopefully bring a change that is positive and a blessing. That is the goal.
    May it be so.

    1. Linda, I’m not going to engage you on this, but, suffice it to say, that God wants us to judge/discern the difference between right and wrong everyday.

      tim

    2. There’s a fine there, between judgement and correction…We are not to judge each other but we are to correct each other as brothers and sisters in Christ…the same as we shouldn’t judge our children, but we should correct them and point out the difference between right and wrong…all to encourage right behavior and blessing. That’s love.

  2. Thanks for your comments regarding the scripture about loving our neighbor. We agree about the behavior of one that offends and hurts has to be confronted with truth and tough love. We love the soul but not the behavior. God Bless 🙏, Swanie & Wayne

    1. Wayne and Swannie, Thanks and I agree. Real loves cares enough to tell the truth! tim

      Sent from my iPhone

      >

  3. Outstanding perspective from each side of the spectrum. As humans we’ve all experienced these feelings at times. There’s just no easy answers.
    For me, what I try to do is think, what would Jesus do? And yet that’s sometimes difficult to filter out . Then life goes on and we are faced with the same dilemma .
    No easy answers,except to pray for our shortcomings ,and ask for wisdom ,knowing that God’s grace will redeem us .
    In Christian love, Wayne Smith

  4. This is not regarding your post but posting a question. What is the UMCjustice.org ? I’ve been seeing a lot on social media. Your thoughts ? Is it “mainstream Methodist ?

    1. Margaret, I have no knowledge of this site, or of its alignment. Only the General Conference can speak for the UMC and there’s no official connection that I know of between the two. I hope this helps, tim

      Sent from my iPhone

      >

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s