Since the United Methodist Church's General Conference in Portland, Oregon I have been reading and listening more than I have been writing as a way to better understand my sisters and brothers around the connection who hold different positions than I do. It has been a mentally and spiritually exhausting discipline and through this work, I believe I am drawing closer to a foundational difference in Christ's church. I will phrase it in a question:
Does Love come from Truth or does Truth come from Love?
If love comes from truth then truth effects the expression of love. For instance, the person on the street corner with a megaphone or those who make videos trying to convince others of a truth are (in my experience) doing these actions not out of judgement but out of love. The megaphone preacher has a love for people and fears that people are going to hell. As an act of love driven by this understanding of truth, the person stands and yells in order to get people's attention. One preacher told me that if you saw someone walking into the street and they did not see a bus coming down on them, wouldn't you yell about the bus to the person? There are a number of videos put out by groups in the UMC that are operating out of this understanding of what is fundamental. Their love for others, Christ and his church are such is rooted in a Truth that drives their actions.
However I have noticed there are others who see truth comes from love. That is that love is the primary or foundation of action and that truth is in service of love. Which means that there would be times when truth might be withheld or not shared or even hidden in order to more fully express love. When someone comes into my office and asks why did their beloved get run over by a bus I don't tell them the truth that their beloved was drunk as a skunk and wandered into the street and due to the full impact of a two ton bus their body could not handle their heart stopped. While this may be true, this is not the response that is needed. Rather a shared weeping and mourning is the response.
Some might say that Truth and Love are one in the same, that they are both needed and required. That in fact, Truth and Love are inseparable. Scripture is cited and stories of Jesus are shared in order to make the case. I get it, perhaps they are correct. But for as many scriptures they cite, I can cite that many more on how love stands alone and that all things flow from it and it has no equal. I can make the Biblical case that Truth comes from Love, but in me doing that I become a person who acts like love comes from truth. I have a truth that I want to convince others and try to do it as loving as I can, but in the end my loving actions are filtered through a desire to communicate truth.
Therein lies the problem that I struggle with my more zealous sisters and brothers on the left and right. When Truth is the primary value we are not able to hear one another. We are too busy trying to convince each other, as loving as we can, what is correct or true.
My friend and colleague Rev. Ryan Kiblinger is a wonderful witness for me. He and I disagree on theological and social issues and yet I could not find a better example of a person who can practice disagreement with great love as his foundation. Be it on social media or in person Rev. Kiblinger is a person who I give thanks to God for because at his core he lives out a Truth from Love. I hope to also be a person who lives with the foundation of Love - even if that comes at the expense of Truth.