Lesson 10: Truth and Love (Part 1)

The Raised FistMore than ever I hear from friends in academia, business, and government that they are accused of not knowing how the world operates whenever they advocate for options including sharing and caring. The accusation always implies that a loving action is naive, because only power brings success.

We are dealing here with two fundamentally different truth claims. The one maintains the world runs on power. It can be expressed as everyone seeks what is best for themselves, victory is about beating your opponent at any cost, money talks, and nobody argues with a gun. When all is said and done, power is ultimately about violence and retaliation.

The other truth claim is that love makes the world go round. It proclaims that a loving God created the world and made humankind like the divine self. Humans only discover their true self when they share and care like God does. They find success and health when they cooperate rather than compete. Because love is ultimately about living in harmony with creation, lovers are blessed.

A great deal of our recent public debate deals with how to resolve these two truth claims. The argument centers on which should be given priority in the present situation. I will examine this conflict in the next couple of weeks.

Laying the groundwork demands recognizing two fundamental biblical perspectives. The first is that violence leads to destruction. The first myths found in Genesis try to answer the question of how people made in God’s image can be so self-destructive. One maintains Cain’s children are chips off the old block. They just get more and more violent until Lamech brags to his two wives, “I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for striking me. If Cain is avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech is seventy-sevenfold” (Genesis 4:23-24). When violence becomes the standard, vengeance eventually gets out of hand. The myth presents this violence as the cause of the destruction brought by the Great Flood. The assumption that violence begets violence and eventually destroys all is found throughout the scriptures.

The second essential biblical perspective we tend to miss is the contention that God’s Word is a guide to a practical lifestyle that leads to real peace, justice, and the beloved community. The authentic Christian message is far from naive goody-goody religious advice. It claims to teach the way to long term success.

The key here is long term. Approaches based on me-first or my nation-first might well provide short term deceptive profits, but they fail to sustain themselves in the long run. I love Jeremiah’s comparison of using unbridled greed and violence to building leaky wells. He argues that God’s Word provides running water that is refreshed day after day. Selfish policies create leaky wells that might quench our thirst today but are found empty when we return tomorrow.

Obviously, our nation has been giving priority to power’s truth claim. It has chosen to ignore many studies that show nonviolence has been far more successful in leading to more lasting peace, perhaps because they make clear this way demands hard work and the discipline to work for the long term. We have chosen the way of violence, reducing our diplomatic corps and increasing our military. It should be pretty evident that this has led to temporary resolutions that have turned more violent than ever down the road. Next week, let me take a look at what Christian love promises.

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  1. Kerry says:

    Whoa!! Excellent, excellent essay!

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