The best way to share our faith is to reflect Christ’s character in our own lives....
Being Like Jesus
Speaking the truth in love.
By Ted N. C. Wilson
One of the most important verses in the Bible is found in 1 John 4:8: “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”
Throughout His earthly ministry, Jesus repeatedly stressed the importance of love. When asked, “Which is the first commandment of all?” (Mark 12:28), Jesus responded by quoting a well-known passage from Deuteronomy: “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:30, 31).
After washing His disciples’ feet, Jesus told them, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34, 35).
The beloved apostle John echoes this important theme in 1 John 4:7, 8: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”
John continues in verse 16: “And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world.
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. We love Him because He first loved us” (verses 16-19).
A Beautiful Diamond
Like a beautiful diamond, God is multi-faceted. The God of love is also the God of truth. We read in Deuteronomy 32:4 that “He is the Rock, His work is perfect; For all His ways are justice, A God of truth and without injustice; Righteous and upright is He.”
The changelessness of God’s love is balanced by the changelessness of His truth. “For I am the Lord, I change not,” He says in Malachi 3:6. God doesn’t change, so His truth remains the same.
In His prayer to the Father, Christ stated, “They [His followers] are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through Thy truth: thy word is truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world” (John 17:17, 18, KJV).
God’s Word—the Bible—is His truth, and because it is His truth, it is changeless. Jesus sends His believers out to share His truth. And because His truth runs contrary to the world, it’s often met with hostility and rejection. Nevertheless, “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth” (1 Cor. 13:4-6).
Speaking the Truth in Love
Jesus gives many examples of how to speak the truth in love. One of the best known is in John 4, where Jesus speaks with a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well.
The Jews avoided interactions with Samaritans because they considered them to have an impure, twisted form of religion. But Jesus reached out to everyone. He knew He had a work to do in Samaria and trusted God to lead Him. Furthermore, He wanted to set an example for the disciples, revealing that their work would be broader than just to Israel.
When Jesus met the Samaritan woman at the well, He thirsted not only for a cup of water, He longed to heal her soul. Because Jesus was not afraid to speak the truth in love, an encounter that began with a simple request turned into an effective two-day evangelistic outreach.
A Difficult Conversation
The conversation between Jesus and the woman at the well wasn’t easy; Jesus had to say some hard things. He wanted her to see her need of the living water He had to offer, and how the way she had lived her life up to that point had been keeping her from Him.
After the woman expressed a desire for the living water Christ was offering, He gently brought her need to the forefront. “Go, call your husband,” He said, “and come here” (John 4:16).
Admitting that she didn’t have a husband, Jesus responded, “You have well said, ‘I have no husband,’ for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband” (verses 17, 18).
The truth hurt, and the woman didn’t want to talk about what she had hoped would remain secret. Seeking to divert the conversation, she brought up a long-standing theological controversy: “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship” (verses 19, 20).
Jesus didn’t dismiss the diversion immediately, but instead watched for an opportunity to again bring the truth home to her heart. “Woman, believe Me,” He told her, “the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father” (verse 21).
But Jesus goes farther, stating: “You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews” (verse 22).
This was a hard truth for a Samaritan to hear, nevertheless it was important. Paul acknowledged this truth in Romans 3:1, 2: “What advantage then has the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision? Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God.”
In Spirit and Truth
As Jesus spoke with the woman at the well, he sought to lift her thoughts above form, ceremony, and controversy. He longed to free her from the bondage of sin and prejudice.
“The hour is coming, and now is,” Jesus continued, “when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:23, 24).
True worship, Jesus said, is in spirit and truth—you can’t just have the spirit or just the truth. You must have both. “In spirit” means to be in accordance with God’s spirit of love and following His way. Truth is always according to His Word; that’s where truth is defined.
Those who worship in spirit and truth are the true worshippers that the Father seeks. God is the focus; He’s the source of truth, and it’s His Spirit that draws us to worship, know, and love Him.