Splinter or Rot?
There are these two extremes when it comes to doctrine. Both extremes are unhealthy, unhelpful and ultimately destructive.
Discernment without Love
Love without Discernment
Each of us are tempted to over lean on one or the other. Neither is good. I don't know which extreme you lean towards or even perhaps fall into. I hope this article will help you see the danger of that extreme as well as affirming your hesitancy to lean too far the other way.
Discernment VS Love
Discernment without love leads to hate, slander, division, pride, mistrust. Love without discernment leads to error. Discernment without love leads to wrong in how we treat others which muddies and distorts the gospel. Love without discernment leads to wrong in how we treat truth which dilutes and corrupts the gospel. Love without discernment destroys purity in truth. Discernment without love destroys purity in action.
Discernment without love damages the church by a thousand splinters of division. Love without discernment damages the church by the deep rot of heresy. The pillar and ground of truth comes crashing down by the sledgehammers and bulldozers of hate without love. The pillar and ground of truth corrodes by the damp and rot of error without truth. The body weakens by the disease of false teaching without discernment. The body is torn limb from limb by hate without love.
We can be so focused on discernment that we neglect mercy. We can be so focused on love that we neglect truth. In reality they are opposite sides of the same coin: true love can't exist without true discernment and true discernment can't exist without true love. Genuine discernment will be loving. Genuine love will be discerning.
Discernment AND Love
Paul prays in Philippians 1v9-11 for our love to flourish in knowledge and discernment (not that our love would grow FOR knowledge and discernment, but IN it). His prayer is that both our love and discernment would grow together - that our love would grow as we grow in understanding and that our understanding would grow as we grow in love. So that we would make the best decision in every scenario, so that we would become more and more like Jesus as he works powerfully in us.
Love will look like purity in action. Discernment will look like purity in truth. Love will treat another with humility, gentleness, kindness, patience. Discernment will treat truth with care, respect, reverence, soberness.
Our calling is to a meek, humble, gentle (in other words, loving) discernment and to a robust, grounded, sober (in other words discerning) love.
We need both discernment and love to meekly instruct someone in error in such a way that would call them to repentance (2 Timothy 2v25). We need both discernment and love to correct someone fallen into sin in such a way that would restore with meekness (Galatians 6v1). We need both discernment and love to rebuke in such a way that would seek to gain a brother who has sinned against you (Matthew 18v15).
One without the other destroys. Both together is life. Truth without love is like breathing in without breathing out. Love without truth is like breathing out without breathing in. Combined? Health. Life. Warmth. Strength. Growth. Just imagine.
Love IN Truth
“…whom I LOVE in the TRUTH” 2 John 1v1, 3 John 1v1
“…speaking the TRUTH in LOVE…” Ephesians 4v15
“Having purified your souls by your obedience to the TRUTH for a sincere brotherly LOVE, LOVE one another earnestly from a pure heart” 1 Peter 1v22
“Grace be with you, mercy, and peace, from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in TRUTH and LOVE”. 2 John 1v3
James says, in 3v13-18 of his letter, that if you are really wise in the truth then we will see it in how you meekly, gently, humbly, mercifully, genuinely live in peace with others. He says if you boast about having the doctrinal smarts, but aren't living that stuff out - then you should stop lying.
I'll finish with church historian Philip Schaff:
“The danger of orthodoxy lies in the direction of exclusive and uncharitable bigotry, which contracts the truth; the danger of liberalism lies in the direction of laxity and indifferentism, which obliterates the eternal distinction between truth and error”. (History of the Christian Church Vol 2 Ch12 §137)
Further Reading - How to Disagree Without Being a Numpty
Alan Campbell is from Belfast, Northern Ireland. He came to Christ as a young adult and trained for ministry at Bethesda Free Church, Sunderland. He co-pastors at Blurton Baptist, Stoke-on-Trent. From time to time he teaches at North Cotes (NTM/Ethnos 360) College. Alan travels across the UK, Ireland, Europe and the States speaking at universities and equipping churches and campus ministries to share the gospel in a post-modern context. He is passionate about helping the believer to root their identity more and more into the person and work of Jesus Christ. Alan is married to Victoria.