Ed Stetzer: Today I am glad to welcome Matt Brown to The Exchange. Matt is an evangelist and founder of Think Eternity. Below I talk to him about his new book of Truth Plus Love: The Jesus Way to Influence
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.
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Source: Christianity Today