The relationship between truth, theology, and love

Here is an insight that came out in the midst of our small group discussion a couple of days ago. I am a theology geek -- a systematic theologian. But I am also a pastor who wants to see how theology gets lived out. In seminary speak, I cross the lines between systematic theology and practical theology. (Many of us think such a line should not exist!)

So there we were, discussing the entire letter of 2 John in one sitting. Okay, so it's only 13 verses long. :-) The first thing we noticed is that John brings up the word "truth" five times in the first four verses. Truth is a major theme in this little epistle. Then John transitions seamlessly into love. Here are verses 4-8:

"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."

Look at the word that is repeated three times here: "walk." Notice the linkage: walking in the truth = walking obedience = walking in love. In other words, good theology, when acted upon, expresses itself in love. It is not enough that theology makes sense or even that it is consistent with passages in the Bible. It must lead to love. That's what I take John to be teaching.

I point this out because I can't think of that many times I have heard a theologian or pastor use love as a criterion for theology. In fact, there are prominent Christian leaders whose theology has hard edges and tends to produce hard followers. Hard followers are trained to win arguments, but they cannot win people. How would John view such leaders and followers?

In my next post, I will make a case that John's theology of the incarnation is central to his teaching, and that it is directly tied to love. Stay tuned...


Popular Posts

Two signs that someone is humble

A test of your relationship with God

Justice, political correctness and offending people -- what would Jesus do?

Ten essential Dallas Willard quotes

Mother Teresa's turning point