Little children, let’s not love with words or speech but with action and truth. This is how we will know that we belong to the truth and reassure our hearts in God’s presence.
1 John 3:18-19
Love well demonstrated happens when we belong to the truth. We belong to the truth when we know how much God loves us. When we know how much God loves us, we can love ourselves. When we love ourselves, we can love others. When we love others, we demonstrate love with both action and truth. The coupling of action and truth is important because our actions demonstrate love to the extent that we belong to the truth.
Belonging to the truth is different than saying you don’t tell lies. Belonging to the truth is a way of being, a permeating presence, the awareness that one is deeply rooted in, and drawing life from, the heart of Christ. When we are confident of God’s love for us, we dwell in the truth and our actions flow from that truth. There is integrity between inner and outer—inner truth and outer action.
Belonging to the truth is not moralistic. It is not incidental, that is, based on telling the truth in particular incidents. You can tell those who belong to the truth because their entire way of living emanates love. Moralists, on the other hand, emanate pride, which is fearful, judgmental and arrogant, highly concerned with controlling the perceptions of others. Moralists are focused on what others think of them and are often vocal about how moral they are. Those who belong to the truth are focused on God, acting out of their love for God, unconcerned about how they are perceived by others.
This story from the sayings of the desert fathers that illustrates the difference between belonging to the truth vs. not telling a lie:
It was said about one brother that when he had woven baskets and put handles on them, he heart a monk next door saying: What shall I do? The trader is coming but I don’t have handles on my baskets! Then he took the handles off his own baskets and brought them to his neighbor saying: Look, I have these left over. Why don’t you put them on your baskets? And he made his brother’s work complete, as there was need, leaving his own unfinished.
In this example, the compassionate brother said the handles were left over, when, in fact, they were not left over, but the ones he needed to make his own baskets complete. A moralist would say he told a lie, and yet he demonstrated compassion and showed he belonged to the truth. To have given the handles to the brother, telling him they were his only handles, would have been prideful and made the despairing brother feel worse than he already felt.
Those who belong to the truth know that they belong to the truth by grace alone, not merit, so they are humble and can extend grace to others. Because they aren’t concerned with what others think of them, they are free to act out of love for God and love for others, actions that come from a heart of love that is confident of God’s love for them. There is congruence between their inner being and outward doing—they belong to the truth because love permeates both their inner being and outward doing. They aren’t perfect; they still fall short, but because they know deeply God’s love for them, they can humbly acknowledge their failure and receive God’s grace with gratitude.
Moralists, who are often quick to tell you that they don’t lie, are actually living a lie because there is not congruence between their inner being and outward doing. While their outward doing may appear “correct,” it comes from a heart of fear, pride and self-righteousness. It is a façade that masks their inner fear.
May we know the truth of God’s love for us, and live lives of congruence that demonstrate our belonging to the truth. Such a life is a life of compassion, freedom and joy!