Love and truth are symbiotic. In last weekend’s message, Pastor Kong Hee encouraged the church to be people of love and truth by finding a degree of balance between the two.
By Carla Fernando
“Love is the greatest thing in life and it must be the aim and goal of all that Christians say and do,” said Kong Hee, senior pastor of City Harvest Church. He was preaching at City Harvest Church’s online weekend service on Aug 22 and 23, teaching the congregation to hold on to the truth of God’s Word while keeping the love of Jesus in their hearts.
1 Timothy 3:15 teaches that the Church is the pillar and foundation of the truth. As the foundation, the church must hold the truth firmly and lift it high for all to all to see. However, truth without love makes a person harsh and self-righteous. On the other hand, love without truth is hypocrisy; it makes a person self-indulgent. 1 Corinthians 13:6 says that love “rejoices in the truth”.
Therefore, for a Christian to grow, he must learn to speak in truth, but the truth must be handled in love. Quoting Ephesians 4:12-18 and Proverbs 18:21, Pastor Kong explained that “death and life are in the power of the tongue” and one’s words can either build a person up or tear him down.
While knowledge is important, the goal of knowing all truth is so that one can be loving, like Jesus (1 Tim 1:5)—a kind of love that is pure and true despite others’ indifference. Pastor Kong said that all instruction—Bible study, cell group meetings, weekend sermons—are to push the church into action and to train the believer into being a person capable of true love: a person who is forbearing and forgiving, merciful, kind, and gracious. All spiritual knowledge is empty if it does not move believers to love one another.
“You see, love is the hallmark that Jesus Christ is alive in us,” the pastor said. “At the same time, love must lead to truth.” The measure and test a believer’s love for God is his willingness to obey God’s Word and commandments. Jesus said in John 14:15, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.”
JOHN, SON OF THUNDER TURNED APOSTLE OF LOVE
Pastor Kong went on to talk about John, widely known as the Apostle of Love. “To be more accurate, he’s really the apostle of love and truth,” the pastor clarified.
In his earlier days, John was very passionate in the pursuit of truth and righteousness. He was first a disciple of John the Baptist but when he met Jesus, he immediately left John to follow Jesus in pursuit of the truth.
He was a man of deep convictions, his passion for the truth evident in his writings. One example was displayed in his Gospel, where he drew a clear line—one chooses to be in the light, or be in darkness; you either choose the Kingdom of God or the kingdom of the devil. There were few gray areas in his teachings, or in his epistles.
However, though John understood that believers commit sin from time to time, he did not elaborate on this point. “His concern was for the overall pattern of the person’s life,” Pastor Kong explained. “He wanted to emphasize the fact that righteousness, not sin, must be the dominant principle in a believer’s life.”
As a young man, John did not have a balanced view of the truth. Together with his older brother James, they were known in the Bible as “the sons of thunder”—confrontational, loud and hot-tempered. His life changed when Jesus spoke to him in Luke 9. John stopped some from casting out demons because they didn’t belong to Jesus’ group of disciples. Jesus corrected him (Luke 9:49-50).
In that same chapter, they were in a village where the Samaritans did not receive Jesus. James and John asked Jesus if they should call down fire to consume the village, and Jesus rebuked the two of them for having a bad attitude (Luke 9:51-55). After these incidents, Jesus taught the disciples about God is love using the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-36). He taught them to love others, even if they did not like their style or culture. They had to want to serve and benefit someone despite having seen the worst of that person.
“All these cut John deeply in the heart,” the pastor said. “From this point on, around Luke 10, John began to change; the hardness of his heart began to soften.”
While it was not easy, John learned from Jesus, and God transformed this son of thunder to an apostle of Love. So great was this transformation that, by the end of the first century, he was greatly respected for his devotion to Christ and his great love for Christians everywhere.
John eventually mastered the art of speaking the truth in love. Pastor Kong read from 2 John and illustrated how John spoke to an elect lady about sound doctrine in a loving manner. He explained to her that the commandments of God are important and told her gently not to receive those who came to her with unsound doctrine.
Pastor Kong urged the church to grow in maturity as John did, to find the perfect balance of truth and love.
THE BALANCE BETWEEN TRUTH AND LOVE
He also said that as a church, City Harvest Church is now in a season of clarifying and strengthening doctrines. The pastor emphasized that, after 31 years the congregation must now know and understand what and why the church believes in these doctrines.
“Only when our faith is informed by the deep exposition of the Word would we deepen our spiritual convictions and strengthen our faith, causing it to grow greater and more mature,” said Pastor Kong.
However, the pastor cautioned that as the church against becoming self-righteous and hyper-critical as it gains more knowledge. The church must remember that truth minus love equals to zero.
“But loving doesn’t mean that we can’t raise questions with people concerning their thoughts, their teachings, their actions,” the pastor said. “The Bible says that the key is learning how to speak the truth in love, how to say it, how to have a discussion and do it in a loving way in any serious discussion.”
Pastor Kong urged the congregation to remember the four Ps of speaking–to have a plan, be clear with the purpose, proof, and preparation to accept the truth as well as reactions. In any serious or uncomfortable conversation, Pastor Kong’s advice is to use the “Sandwich Principle” or the “Oreo-Cookie Approach”.
“This is the best way to go into any conversation that is uncomfortable, that is difficult and challenging,” the pastor said. “So you start with the positive, you lay out the issue, and you end with positive. This will keep the door open for you to continue the conversation, and it will be a continuing conversation.”
Concluding his message, Pastor Kong reminded the congregation that speaking the truth in love is never easy but it is vital. He closed with a prayer for those in the congregation who are struggling to be gracious, kind and loving, and also for those who are struggling in dealing with truth, that they would be people of both truth and love.