Ed: How has the existence—and our use of—the Internet created a greater challenge for Christians to exhibit truth in love?
Matt: For five to six years now, the concept of truth and love have rumbled around in my heart and mind. I knew I needed to write out my thoughts in a book. Several years in, I stumbled on an old Francis Schaeffer book, The Mark of the Christian, written more than a half century ago, where he talks about our great need for both truth and love.”
He shares, essentially, that we must rediscover the balance of truth and love, and it must be “constantly and consciously developed—talked about and written about in and among our groups and among ourselves as individuals.”
He said we need to be able to see a distinguishable difference between how Christians disagree and how the rest of the world does it. I don’t think this need has changed since he wrote it a half century ago! In fact, it has grown explosively.
If you think about it, we are the first generation of believers that has the mass connectivity of the internet, 24-hour news media (which is often negative), and a social media “megaphone” where we can respond and state our opinions about everything that is going on.
So we know what’s going on like we never have before (internet), we are baited to give our opinion about all of it (24-hour news media), and we can quickly and easily share with hundreds or thousands of “friends” (even people we went to middle school with!).
This is the perfect storm. And I think we see this being played out in our nation today. It is not the result simply of political leadership, but also very much the mix of all these online tools that we need to understand and learn how to use better.
I believe Christians can change the national conversation if we all start to consider how we are walking and speaking in both truth and love.
When you receive Jesus Christ into your life, and choose to follow him, you are immediately declared by Scripture to be a representative of Jesus to the world around you. This means that people will see who Jesus is by the way you live and respond to things. Jesus was full of grace and truth.
Paul told us we need to speak the truth in love. Truth and love are two of the great themes of the Bible. They are distinct, but complement each other when done right.
When we walk in the truth of God’s Word and the gospel, the power of God flows through us. When we walk in love, people are drawn to us, and we can point them to the reason for our unusual love and genuine grace—Jesus.
Ed: What does truth without love look like? What about love without truth? Why is it so important that we demonstrate both—together?
Matt: We desperately need both truth and love if we are going to live effective Christian lives.
“Truth minus love is just a noise to the world around us. First Corinthians 13 talks about this, and it describes what real love looks like—“not easily angered… keeps no record of wrongs… kind… not self-seeking.
Over and over again the Bible calls us to a life of love. Jesus said the greatest commandments out of the 613 commandments in the Old Testament were to love God and to love others. A little later on in 1 Corinthians 16:14, the Bible tells us to do “everything in love.” If we are passionate about the truth of God’s Word, we absolutely must be passionate about walking in love, kindness, gentleness, and self-control.
Love minus truth will lead us into error. The truth of God’s Word and the gospel are where the power is. There is Holy Spirit power in the gospel and in God’s truth. If we move away from the truth of God’s Word, we will lose the power to save.
Lives are changed when they encounter God’s truth. Families are restored. Brokenness is salvaged. Relationships are reconciled. It’s not enough to just be kind and “loving.” People must bring the truth we have to the table, mainly because it’s God’s truth, not our own.
Truth plus love, I believe, will give us influence with people around us. Think about love and the fruit of the Spirit (I write chapters on each of the fruits of the Spirit, starting with love, and how we can remove obstacles to growing in them).
Who doesn’t want to be around someone who’s full of love, who is full of joy, who is full of peace, who is full of gentleness? People will be drawn to us. I’ve never met an encourager who didn’t have any friends. If we walk in and filter what we say through the fruit of the Spirit, people will be drawn to us, and we will be able to point them to the truth and hope of Jesus Christ.
Ed: Our culture is one that seems to be constantly in a state of outrage. How should Christians respond to conflict?
Matt: Yes, and I’m so thankful you wrote a book on this topic as well. It’s difficult these days to even go online or to watch TV without getting angry about something in the news. Everything is politicized, and that’s not healthy or good for our own hearts, or for our world.
Now more than ever, we need to insert unusual, God-given grace into the national conversation. And part of that is learning to resist the urge to speak our opinion into everything that is going on. We need the fruit of the Spirit of self-control in all of this as well. It’s not easy or natural, it’s a supernatural grace.
I would say Christians can respond to some things, but shouldn’t respond to everything. More importantly, we need to lift up hope, grace, and the good news more, as well as giving dignity to those who disagree with us.
Carl F.H. Henry once said, “The early believers didn’t say, ‘What has the world come to?’ but rather, ‘Look! Who has come to the world.’” It so important we don’t let what will always be the greatest news, the gospel, get sidetracked or forgotten by the constant flow of negative news.
We can wake up every day excited about God and His constant work in the world. We don’t need to become parrots for negative news media or the outrage culture around us.
Ed: There’s a lot of talk now about people who are so-called “influencers.” You write that “God has called us to be influencers for the sake of the gospel.” What does it mean to be influencers for the sake of the gospel?
Matt: I believe all of us have more influence than we realize with the people around us. And honestly, now we all have more influence because of social media too. We can easily talk with hundreds or thousands of people we’ve come into contact with throughout our lives.
In fact, it’s never been easier to share the gospel with everyone we know! This is a holy and powerful opportunity. We could share a gospel video on our feed or write out our personal testimony or, on a more personal level, message a friend that they are on our heart and we’ve been praying for them. You could even message a friend and ask them about their faith, and look for an opportunity to share the gospel with them.
Whatever level of influence you have, I so strongly feel we can grow in our influence with everyone if we will walk in both truth and love, and the fruit of the Spirit. People will be drawn to us when we walk in love, joy, and peace.
Our influence in our own families will grow too. And that is the most difficult place to put all of this into practice, because our families know us the best. That is actually the place I think we should start with all of this—how can I love and serve my family better? How can I be slower to anger, gentler, and more faithful?
Ed: What are some of the most common objections you’ve heard to this idea of truth plus love?
Matt: I’ve heard all sorts of objections as I’ve posted and spoken about this topic over the past few years.
One gentleman said we all just need to declare the truth louder, and more in unity. To which 1 Corinthians 13 reminded me—truth louder is still just noise if it isn’t filled with love. We need to love louder.
One lady told me the truth is all we need. That telling the truth is loving. The only problem with that is that the Bible clearly distinguishes between truth and love and says we really need both.
Another person responded to me saying these are fruits of the Spirit, so we can conjure them up ourselves. While it’s 100% true that we need God’s Spirit to work these in us supernaturally, the Bible also calls us over and over to work toward peace, to love everyone, to walk with compassion and grace.
I like to think of it the way Jerry Bridges wrote about holiness. He taught that we have holiness in Christ before God when we accept Christ, but there is a biblical holiness we are called to work toward.
It is the same with the fruit of the Spirit—we need to keep them in front of our eyes, and spend our life growing toward them, knowing that all along it is the Spirit of God working them in us.