Truth feels elusive of late. Our social media feeds and conversations (and subsequently our minds) are flooded with deceptions (or, more charitably, unverifiable facts). My growing awareness of the prevalence of deception sparked a fervent pursuit of Truth—a pursuit I’m chronicling in real time right here.
I see this pursuit as a battle for my soul. I know that deceit has the potential to wreak havoc on my physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual health, and that the antidote to this insidious deception is a systematic, spirit-led quest for the truth. This quest is THE pivotal component in walking out my life with the Lord . . . or is it?
My investment in this notion was challenged recently when a statement made on a podcast jumped out at me: truth is not listed as a fruit of the spirit. My gut reaction to this statement was to mentally walk through the list of spiritual fruit as recorded in Galatians: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, Self-Control. He was right. . . truth isn’t there.
Of course, each of these fruits does incorporate the truth. I would argue that it is impossible to fully manifest any of these fruits without it: Love built upon lies is not loving. Peace and joy that are grounded in deception are incomplete. It is impossible to be patient, kind, faithful, or gentle when mistruths are eating away at us. By definition, goodness apart from truth is not truly good. And self-control demands truth as a guideline. So from this view, truth might be an unstated fruit of the spirit.
But let’s look at it from the opposite direction: can truth exist without spiritual fruit? I believe that it can. One might speak truth—Real Truth, God’s Truth, Scripture-Affirming Truth—without exhibiting any fruit. Atheists or false teachers can know the truth without embracing and living it out to the point of bearing spiritual fruit. We are all too aware of faith leaders whose stated doctrine was sound, whose weekly sermons were brimming with truth, and who had all the right and truthful answers, but whose personal lives were devoid of spiritual fruit that would indicate a genuine abiding in Christ. They had truth, but ultimately it wasn’t enough without the fruit to back it up.
Truth may pave the way for sanctification, but truth alone isn’t evidence of the heart work the Spirit is doing within us. It is a seed within the fruit, but a seed unplanted or un-nurtured or undeveloped is just a seed. Truth in isolation is incomplete.
As I contemplated this revelation, I began to realize that I was on the cusp of becoming a type of “false teacher”: I was pursuing and believing and sharing truth, often to the detriment of my spiritual wholeness. Truth no longer had a seat at the table . . . it had trashed all of the other chairs around the table and was dancing on top of it. Chief among the casualties of my truth-seeking was Love—the one virtue that is to meant to be prized over all else.
The Apostle Paul addressed this problem of seeking subsidiary missions, gifts, or virtues over love. In 1 Corinthians 13 (the famous Love Chapter) he writes, “if I were to have the gift of prophecy with a profound understanding of God’s hidden secrets, and if I possessed unending supernatural knowledge . . . but have never learned to love, then I am nothing.” We can possess all of the truth, all of the wisdom, all of the discernment. But in the absence of love, truth loses its power to build up God’s Kingdom. Paul tells us that love rejoices with the truth; but truth without love is insufficient.
As I seek truth in the coming weeks and months (and beyond!), I want love to be my guide. Love is more than capable! To quote the MOPS mission for this year, “love will save [me]. In fact, it already has, because Love’s name is Jesus.”
Jesus walked 100% in truth. There was no darkness or deception within Him. But Jesus led with love . . . love that encompassed truth, of course, but that was not overrun by it. Jesus asks the same of us: first and foremost, we are to love.
The lie I was believing was that I must pursue truth at all costs. But the truth is that there is a force more powerful, a virtue more important, and a value more crucial than truth: love.