No one likes confrontation. Even those who like to confront others don’t like being confronted themselves. It’s awkward, unpleasant and nerve-racking. The proud can feel attacked and the humble discouraged. Only self-righteous confronters feel good about it.
That’s why Christians who confront sinners with biblical truth are regularly labelled as unloving. Since the popular notion of love is whatever feels good, confrontation cannot be loving. Too often when churches claim the motto “Love God, Love People,” what they mean is they go out of their way to avoid making people feel bad about their sin.
Moreover, while the accusation of being unloving is often used by sinners to divert attention away from themselves, the accusation can also have some legitimacy. If we’re honest, we often feel the tension between speaking the truth about sin and being loving. Biblical truth can be presented in a harsh and unloving way. And finding the right balance can be difficult to discern. With this in mind, the apostle John’s life serves as an outstanding biblical example of finding that balance.
John affirmed that love for Christ is authenticated by obedience to Christ (John 14.15–23″ data-version=”nasb95″>John 14:15–23). He also pointed out that love for fellow Christians is the defining mark of true Christianity (John 13.34–35″ data-version=”nasb95″>John 13:34–35) and the dividing line between God’s children and Satan’s children (1 John 3.4–10″ data-version=”nasb95″>1 John 3:4–10). But John’s theology of love never softened his zeal for truth—it actually brought balance into the life of this Son of Thunder.
John seems to have been committed to truth very early in life. From the beginning we see him as a spiritually aware man who sought to know and follow the truth. When we first encounter John (John 1.35–37″ data-version=”nasb95″>John 1:35–37), both he and Andrew are disciples of John the Baptist. But like Andrew, John without hesitation began following Jesus as soon as John the Baptist singled Him out as the true Messiah.
John’s love of truth is evident in all his writings. He uses the Greek word for truth 25 times in his gospel and 20 more times in his epistles. He wrote, “I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in truth” (3 John 4). No one in all of Scripture, except the Lord Himself, had more to say extolling the very concept of truth.
But sometimes in his younger years, John’s zeal for truth was lacking in love and compassion for people. He needed to learn the balance. The incident in Mark 9:38). On both occasions, John showed a lack of love—for both believers and unbelievers respectively.