I saw the other day that a candidate for President of the South Baptist Convention, a pastor no less, publicly called Justice Jackson a “Molechite.” Though it was clear from the context it was no compliment, the term itself stumped me for a moment. Then it clicked. Molech is the ancient god of the Canaanites, who through idolatry, led Israel to burn their children in sacrifice in the Valley of Hinnom. The pastor was, not so subtly, suggesting the newly confirmed Justice was of the same child-sacrificing spirit, having assumed she is pro-choice.
If the ugly name calling were not enough, many responded on his time line, thanking him for having the courage to speak the truth. Given the proliferation of this kind of reaction coming from the conservative camp, others were prepared and eager to redeem his ugly comment with the notion that speaking the “truth” was the high act of loving one’s neighbor. I’d heard this notion before, that to say things directly or bluntly, things you believe to be truth, is a loving thing to do. As if the act of speaking the truth is love itself.
Noisy Gong and Clanging Cymbal
Ephesians 4:15 (NAS): 15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ,
I call it a notion because I believe they are wrong. We are not called to speak the truth as love, but in love. The truth itself is not love, nor is the act of speaking the truth. The truth must be spoken in love.
In that great exposition of love in 1 Corinthians 13, the Apostle says that if you don’t have love, you will be reduced to the noisy clamor of a gong or a cymbal. If we listen closely to the Apostle’s words, he says that if love is not in you, what comes out of you, whether true or not, is simply noise. The content of your words are rendered useless if love is not already there; there for those to whom you speak. In this pastor’s case, there was no love there.
So how do you speak the truth in love? The answer is simple, though maybe not easy. You must love the one to whom you speak. And if it matters to you at all whether your words are of benefit, then you don’t speak until you have love.
So no, this pastor does not get this ugly redeemed as love. It was not love, it was just ugly. And it was out of his heart that his mouth spoke. Love is many things, but saying ugly things because you believe it’s true is not one of them. Love is patient, and kind. It does not act unbecoming. Love rejoices in the truth, but is not the truth itself. In fact, even after the truth is long past it’s usefulness, love will remain for it’s greater than even faith and hope.