Speaking the Truth in Love

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Phil Johnson is the executive director for Grace to You and has been part of John MacArthur’s ministry since 1981. He will be speaking at the upcoming Answers for Women conference. What he shared with me about his upcoming talk will be a blessing to all our readers.

I hope all our lady readers are rested up from the holidays and preparing to join us for our annual Answers for Women conference. This year’s theme is Truth: Uncovering the Lies We Believe, and we have a great lineup of speakers preparing to challenge and equip us. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be hearing from those speakers through guest blog posts.

I came to know Phil first through his blog, Pyromaniacs, and then through his frequent guest appearances on Todd Friel’s podcast, Wretched. Here’s what Phil had to say about his presentation:

It's not easy, especially nowadays, to keep love and truth together in a balanced way.

Our culture force-feeds us a postmodern notion of love. Tolerance, diversity, and broad-mindedness are its defining features.

Meanwhile, truth is generally held in high suspicion, if not treated with outright contempt. After all, if the very essence of love is to accept all points of view, how could it possibly be virtuous to believe that one idea is true to the exclusion of all others? Indeed, many in our culture regard emphatic truth-claims as inherently unloving. As a result, truth is regularly sacrificed in the name of love.

As Christians, we need to understand love from a biblical perspective. Authentic love "rejoices with the truth" (1 Corinthians 13:6). Love and truth are perfectly symbiotic, and each virtue is essential to the other. Love without truth has no character. Truth without love has no power.

In fact, when radically separated from one another, both virtues cease to be anything more than mere pretense. Love deprived of truth quickly deteriorates into sinful self-love. Truth divorced from love always breeds sanctimonious self-righteousness.

Nowhere in Scripture is the essential connection between these two cardinal virtues more clearly highlighted than in 2 John. Love and truth are the key words in the salutation of that brief 13-verse epistle, and the central theme throughout is the unbreakable interdependence between these two essential qualities of Christlikeness.

John is the perfect apostle to write on this theme. Jesus had nicknamed John and his brother James "Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder" (Mark 3:17)—doubtless because of their fiery zeal for the truth. At first, their passion was not always tempered with love, and we see a glimpse of that in Luke 9:54 when they wanted to call down fire from heaven upon a village of Samaritans who had rebuffed Christ.

In later years, however, John distinguished himself as the Apostle of Love, especially highlighting the theme of love in his gospel and in all three of his epistles.

And yet, as we see in all his epistles, he never lost his zeal for the truth. He did, however, learn to keep it wedded to a proper, Christlike love. And in his short second epistle, where he has some hard things to say in defense of the truth, he is careful to give first place to love. We’ll be dealing with that brief but important epistle March 27-28 at the Answers for Women 2020 conference. It’s an instructive study, and especially relevant to the times in which we live.

Christians today must learn how to ground love properly in the truth. We cannot succumb to pressure from our culture to spurn or bury the truth of Scripture under a false and foggy notion of love.

I’m looking forward to hearing more of what Phil has to share about the importance of truth and love.

Will you help us spread the word about Answers for Women and consider coming or sending an important woman in your life? Overwhelmingly women say they learned about the conference by “word of mouth.” So, I want you to read these blog posts, share them on social media, and use them to personally invite women to this truth-filled time of worship, teaching, and fellowship. Register here today!

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