A Classic Combination

2 John 1:4-6 “It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as the Father commanded us. And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another. And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.”

Some things make classic combinations. They just go together: Peanut butter and jelly, macaroni and cheese, bread and butter, shoes and socks, suit and tie, shorts and t-shirts, hugs and kisses.

Other combinations are famously incompatible or problematic: oil and water, cats and dogs, politics and religion. Often the best practice is to keep these things separate.

Where would you classify “truth and love?” They often appear together in the Bible. But there is a temptation to see them as somehow incompatible. Love gets confused with “being nice” or “making people happy.” Then people run into some unpopular truth in the Bible that calls for sacrifice or repentance, and they feel like they need to put the truth aside to be consistent with the principle of love.

Some obsess so much about defending truth that love for people doesn’t seem to matter anymore. They feel no concern about damaging feelings, relationships, or even souls as long as the truth is preserved. Which will you follow, truth or love? Sometimes it feels like you need to make a choice.

But truth and love are a match made in heaven, literally. In these verses, John sees them both guiding our behavior.

Love, you may already know, is the great summary of everything God commands. He wants our words and actions to benefit the people around us. Everything he does serves and benefits us. His love is contagious, like a good infection. Once you catch it, love starts to take over inside. It rearranges our hearts and our minds, and God’s love starts producing love in our lives as well.

Sometimes we don’t understand what our neighbor really needs. He may want something that isn’t good for him at all. So God gives his revealed truth as a guide. We can march right through the ten commandments, and with each one our world would tell us that love is something else if our Lord did not make his will clear.

Sometimes love even involves pain, self-denial, or sacrifice. The movie Hearts in Atlantis portrays three childhood friends, two boys and a girl, who become friends with an elderly man named Ted. Ted has mysterious powers. Near the movie’s end the girl has been beaten up by a neighborhood bully who dislocates her shoulder. One of her friends carries her to Ted, who recognizes the dislocation and determines to set it back in place.

But while correcting the dislocation will reduce her pain in the long run, the procedure itself will be even more painful. So he talks up her courage, and gives her something to bite on while he pops the bone back in place.  

Spiritually, sometimes love requires us to inflict pain to relieve it. We can’t just go on feelings. We need to be guided by God’s truth. When we keep love and truth together, together they direct our lives.

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