Sounds like a trick question, doesn’t it. What’s greater: love or truth? They are both important, but does one win out over the other, when we consider what’s ultimately more important? Let me give you a sample scenario to demonstrate a situation where this might be a question we consider.
Let’s say that one of your (close) friends is doing something she shouldn’t. What do you do? If you tell her that she’s wrong, she might get mad at you and feel like you’re not being loving. She might not want to be friends anymore. She might feel hurt and rejected. But, if you say nothing, wouldn’t that be like letting her approach a dangerous cliff with no warning? Wouldn’t it be to her ultimate benefit for you to caution her against doing something that might harm her? In the end, she will probably thank you for it, right?
Wait: let’s say that you are also aware that the thing she is doing is something that she might regard as a mere difference of opinion. She might not understand that you are trying to warn her, but think, “What’s so wrong with what I’m doing? Why can’t you accept my way of life, even if you disagree with it? Why can’t we agree to disagree, and still be friends? Better yet, if you know that this is a touchy subject for me, why bring it up in the first place, since that might damage our relationship? Isn’t our RELATIONSHIP what’s most important to you? Why would you say things that would put that in jeopardy? Why can’t you just LOVE me?” Hmm.
Well, what does the BIBLE have to say about it? We could discuss opinions all day long, but it’s the word of God that has the final say. And let’s not just discuss what we THINK the Bible says, but let’s take the time to look at what it ACTUALLY says.
“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. If you had known Me, you would have known my Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.'” John 14:6-7
Jesus IS the truth. These verses talk about KNOWING Who He IS. Jesus doesn’t just speak truth, HE IS TRUTH. If Jesus is eternally existent (He is), then we know that He has always BEEN truth, and will always BE truth. It is part of His nature, His divine essence. We cannot extricate truth from His nature, as if it were merely a function of what He does. No, truth is Who He IS. That puts truth on a pretty high pedestal, doesn’t it?
Let’s look at another verse.
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” 1 John 4:7
God IS love. Here we see that love is part of God’s NATURE. Jesus is God, so we know that this verse is talking about Jesus, as well. God doesn’t just love us, He IS love. He has always BEEN love, and will always BE love. It is part of His nature, His divine essence.
To argue over what aspect of God’s divine nature is greater than another aspect of God’s divine nature is absurd. No facet of His nature is greater than another, since it comprises Who He IS. You cannot separate Him into lesser and greater parts. He is ALL great.
But wait, isn’t there a verse that says that love is greater than EVERYTHING? Let’s take a look.
“And now abide faith, hope love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13
What is being compared here? Is love being compared to truth? No, it is not. Love is being compared to FAITH, and HOPE. Why is love greater than faith and hope? Well, a reading of chapters 12 to 14 of 1 Corinthians will instruct us. One day, there will come a time when we will no longer need faith or hope. One day, everything we have had faith for, and everything we have hoped for, WE WILL HAVE (as true believers in Christ). We will no longer need to have faith for those things that we will at that time see right in front of us. We will no longer have to hope for those things that we will at that time have. Faith and hope will not be necessary. But love will always remain. JUST LIKE TRUTH. Truth will never cease to exist, either. Because they find their origin in God Himself, truth and love will always BE. Truth is not greater than love, neither is love greater than truth. They are BOTH equally great.
So, going back to our scenario that was mentioned at the beginning, what should you do when you see a close friend of yours going the wrong direction?
“…but, speaking the truth in love…” Ephesians 4:15a
The answer isn’t an either/or answer. It is a both/and answer. We must do BOTH things. We must tell people the truth. And we must love them. Telling others the truth demonstrates THAT we love them. If we didn’t care, we would just let them jump off a cliff, right? But because we LOVE them, we tell them the TRUTH.