This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. ~ John 15:12-13
Thus far we have discussed the false dichotomy between truth and love and the necessity of verbally communicating truth. A reader might ask, then why can't I just speak love, and there is no problem with such a thing if that love is not separated from truth. But many attempts to reach someone with love or by "speaking love" are built on a notion of love that is separated from truth, a notion of love which is not truly love. Likewise, it is usually attached to the false expectation that love will be more readily received than truth.
Consider a woman contemplating abortion. Perhaps a gentle "I love you" from somebody whose love has been deeply demonstrated might convince a woman with a wavering conscience that she has the emotional support to carry her child to term. This happens because the expectant mother has some realization of both the truth about abortion and the truth of another person's love.
But what of a woman whose conscience has been turned away from reason and does not recognize even an inkling that she is about to destroy another human being. Her response to an "I love you" objecting to her choice is a request for a love which validates her destructive activity. The person trying to sway her must respond with a reasoned explanation of why she cannot have the abortion and hope that their sobriety of thought wins over her clouded mind. At the same time, the person trying to sway her must not lose control of their emotions and display a sense of anger, wrath, or judgmentalism that discredits love for mother and child.
In front of abortion clinics, there are surely women so desperate for a kind word that a "We love you and your baby" turns some away from the abortionist's door and to the sidewalk counselor. But others walk into the clinic with hearts hardened from hearing too many cheap "I love you's". This is not at all a criticism of the sidewalk counselors; rather, it is merely a recognition that the truth of love requires more demonstration than truths which may be conveyed by factual recitation and logical proofs.
And I am aware of women who turned away from abortion clinics after seeing signs with graphic images of the violence done to unborn children in abortions. And some would judge people who hold such signs as being unloving, but I am unaware of any woman who saw such a sign who went from wavering on abortion to thinking it was a good thing once she considered the images.
Postmodern society attacks any notion of truth on relativist grounds - this is common knowledge. But as much as we all want to be loved, the idea of anybody laying down their lives for us - anybody offering us truth or anything else that we cannot get for ourselves - is offensive to our notion of an autonomous self. Love offered from another reveals our own lack.
Christ spoke the truth with perfect charity in his heart. His Love, His Truth, His Very Person was rejected to the point of crucifixion 2000 years ago. He is still rejected on the same grounds to this day, and his disciples are called to love in the same way. Should we expect a different treatment than the master?
A person who loves or speaks love but avoids the wounds of love by withholding the truth is a person who does not love as Christ loved.
I am reminded of a poem by Amy Carmichael, a Baptist missionary to India:
Hast thou no scar?
No hidden scar on foot, or side, or hand?
I hear thee sung as mighty in the land;
I hear them hail thy bright, ascendant star.
Hast thou no scar?
Hast thou no wound?
Yet I was wounded by the archers; spent,
Leaned Me against a tree to die; and rent
By ravening beasts that compassed Me, I swooned.
Hast thou no wound?
No wound? No scar?
Yet, as the Master shall the servant be,
And piercèd are the feet that follow Me.
But thine are whole; can he have followed far
Who hast no wound or scar?
Most truths are easier to speak than the truth of love. Most truths are easier to be believed than the truth of real love for another person, provided the interior work of love is abounding in the speaker. A lack of charity is an overwhelming obstacle in convincing anybody on any point of truth. In part four of this series, we will focus on love.