The Redemptivity of Truth
In this series on divine love, we have made great issue of the nature of truth that undergirds genuine divine love. We have brought correction to the great passionist errors in the presentation of God’s love to the world based on the idea of human centrality.
But this series cannot be complete without checking the opposing error to false love which is the error of truth without love. Truth when ministered may not have the sound of love that humans want, but when ministered God’s way, is ministered lovingly.
So what does that mean? How is truth ministered lovingly if the truth itself does not sound like love?
The loving nature behind truth is defined by the motivation behind its ministry. And the chief motivation present behind lovingly ministered truth is redemptivity. Redemptivity is the motive of speaking with the purpose of saving, not condemning. Redemptivity is always present behind the ministry of loving truth.
Redemptivity is the best meaning of love seen in I Corinthians 13 when applied to truth. Indeed, the passionist concept of love does not fit I Corinthians 13 at all. The redemptivity of truth is best revealed in Paul’s statement, “love believes all things.” That is, love is believing for the best in the situations it must confront. Love is looking for the redemptive way out of a confrontational situation. It is always and finally looking out for the welfare of the one to whom it must speak.
Note that it says, “Love rejoices not in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth.” Love is aligned with truth at all times. Love never denies the truth. Love does not find a platform for rejoicing that requires the burying of the truth. That is rejoicing in iniquity.
One must understand that the entire context of 1 Corinthians 13 is that of the ministry of truth. The “love” chapter is all about the ways and means by which truth is ministered. It is not about love as a self-standing quality or attribute.
Look at the first verse: “Though I speak with the tongue of men and angels, but have not love, I have sounding clanging brass or a clanging cymbal.” Love is a qualifier of something else. The whole point of this chapter is to explain the redemptive means by which truth is to be ministered, both in spoken form, and in context of relational conflict which is the result of issues of truth.
If you don’t get this, then you don’t get 1 Corinthians 13. But our purpose in this article is not to go after the problem of elevating love as a standalone virtue in this chapter, but to show how this chapter requires love in redemptive ministration of the truth to which it points and for which it serves as the delivery vehicle.
What does this mean in practice about the delivery of truth? It means that the ministry of truth moves from the least invasive to the most invasive measure as necessary. It moves from the general to the specific, giving opportunity for a situation to self correct with a minimum of conflict necessary. It means that truth is first ministered in patience, and that judgment and anger are found only on the back end of dealing with a situation, not the front end. (It doesn’t mean that anger is not found at all in a situation.)
Loving truth is always looking for the easiest way, the most peaceful way, the least invasive way to deliver its message. This is because loving truth is looking for a way to deliver the message in the way it would itself want to first be approached with the message if that were possible (sometimes, depending on the behavior at issue, it is not possible.)
All in all, we must be very careful about how we handle the truth and how we deliver it and with what motivation. All truth must be ministered as redemptively as possible wherever foreseeable conflict is on the horizon due to the controversial nature of what is being shared. That is the meaning of love as brought to us through Paul’s letter.
The ministry of truth should never become an excuse for administering our own petty feelings, judgments, or for showing off our own gifts. The truth is not about us. It is about bringing the life and love of God to others for their benefit out of their crying need for it. Truth is always looking for this angle in its presentation, whether it is instructive or corrective.
With these thoughts, we want to conclude this series on divine love.
New Meadow Neck, Rhode Island
First Love Ministry
- a ministry of Anglemar Fellowship