Which is Love?

Jesus Heals A Paralyzed Man

Have you ever wondered about how Christians (or even just religious people in general) ought to prioritize their actions? What I mean is, have you ever wondered which action should come first–defense of the faith or caring for someone? Truth or love?

They don’t always go hand in hand, which makes this question a little bit harder than it already is. Sometimes it seems like we must choose between them. Not always, but often enough that I myself have wondered about the relationship between them. 

Of course, we have passages too like the one found in Ephesians 4:15 which encourages believers in Jesus to “speak the truth in love.” To me, that further complicates the question I am asking. Because truth and love do not always have the same goals in mind. They don’t always work the same way. Sometimes, you have to choose between them. 

Now, more so than at any other time in recent memory, I think, we are at such a time in our history. Nearly everything that is said, reported, shared, and talked about with friends or family seems to have a direct opposite that has also been said, reported, shared, and talked about with friends and family. Does that mean that the “postmodern” worldview has truly set in? Where all truth is relative? Or does it mean that we have allowed ourselves to be participants in a system with so little accountability that directly conflicting reports can both be believed to be true and honest seekers of truth can do little to nothing to discover where truth actually is? 

Well, I certainly hope that is not the position that we find ourselves in as to me, there would be very little hope in such a scenario. 

I prefer, instead, the way of Jesus. 

Now, the way of Jesus is not impossible to discern, nor is it easily definable. (Jesus often used parables and images/metaphors to help communicate what he was inviting his followers into. But, I don’t think this is because Jesus couldn’t define it, but rather that he chose not to. More on that in a little while…) In the way of Jesus, we do not cast aside truth or love as if either one of them were impossible to attain or to find. In the way of Jesus, the path forward is not hopeless. 

In Mark 2, Jesus encounters a paralyzed man who is quite literally dropped into his lap. What transpires next is an interesting discussion on the topics of truth and love. When this man enters the home that Jesus is teaching in, Jesus first response is to heal this man… is to love this man… is to ask for money to repair the damages to the house… No, Jesus doesn’t ask for any of those things. Instead, he forgives his sins. 

Now, the teachers of the Law are beside themselves at this point, because Jesus has just, in their minds, blasphemed God and placed himself in God’s position. Not a good thing to do. Thus, enters a discussion on truth.

Pharisees: “Only God can forgive sins. Who do you think you are?”

Jesus: “Well, which is more impossible… to hug an elephant or to bench press a mountain?”

Pharisees: “You have blasphemed against God. You are a sinner and need to repent!”

Jesus: “Do you see this man in need right here? Do you care about him at all or are you only concerned with defending your faith?”

Pharisees: “…”

Jesus: “So you will know that the way of Jesus is true, this man can now walk again.”

(If you like the above translation, you won’t find it anywhere in stores. It is entirely made up, but I think it captures at least part of the story in a pretty helpful way. If you don’t like the above translation, that’s ok. The actual translation is pretty good on its’ own, without my commentary.)

Let me get down to the point I am trying to make. The way of Jesus, while both truthful and loving, is not set up for us to ask an either/or question of it. The way of Jesus is love. The question has been taken out of our hands. 

Now, again, I will reiterate that the way of Jesus is not interested in discarding questions about truth or defending the faith. In fact, I think in many ways, the way of Jesus assumes its’ truthfulness in advance. But, notice how Jesus goes about having these types of discussions with religious leaders. Very seldom does Jesus get into a debate with them. He is able to avoid that trap before they can fully set it every time they try to bring it up. 

Instead, Jesus always shows them the truth through his loving actions–even when his loving actions causes him to act counter to how they think he ought to act if he is living faithfully and being true to the commands of God (see last week’s story and blog on John 8). 

In the debate between truth and love, Jesus calls us to love always. 

Which brings me back to the way of Jesus that is never really defined in specific terms, at least not in a way that readers today can pinpoint and extract as an exact definition of following Jesus. Jesus consistently tells stories, uses images and metaphors, and even encounters real life people rather than creating a definition for our websites, slogans, or dictionaries. It’s not because the way of Jesus isn’t discernable. But I think it is because Jesus is much more interested in our actions of love–in our stories of love–than in making sure that we get things right. Jesus wants us to follow his example, and when we do that, we will get things right more often than not. 

So, today, when we are confronted with questions about truth or love, remember that Jesus has given us the example to follow. We can never sacrifice an opportunity to love someone else in order to get to the truth. Truth without love is useless. Loving someone, though, that is truly the way of Jesus.