Instead of the sweet rot of charity without truth; truth without charity displays the sour stink of disapproval, a judgmental attitude, a lecturing and hectoring spirit. “Here come the self righteous know it alls. Take cover!” The brother who is truthful without charity destroys the faith because he has made it unattractive. He may have all the answers in the world, but without charity it is not only worth nothing…it is positively destructive for without knowing it he has distorted the Christian gospel into a set of doctrines and a list of rules.
To have charity and truth together is more than mouthing the bromide, “We must speak the truth in love.” That sounds like no more than telling the sour sister to put a smile on her face when she pronounces the rules. We must do much more than “speak the truth in love.” We must live the truth which is love. The task of the Christian is to incarnate the truth through love—not simply to state the truth as a moral regulation or doctrinal proposition. To live the truth in love is to make both love and truth a reality in our everyday lives.
It is in the lives of the saints that we find love and truth amalgamated in a way that cannot be separated. Until this happens in an individual’s life, truth remains a theory and love no more than an emotion. Truth and love must be incarnated in the individual life through a lifetime of prayer, service, study and sacrifice.
This requires an constant infusion of grace combined with an act of the will through which we pay attention, with effort and concentration. It is not a task for the weak willed, the weak minded or the feeble hearted. Those who are inclined to fall into the charity trap must avoid turn their minds again and again to the truths they are inclined to dismiss or neglect out of weakness or laziness. Those who are inclined to the truthful trap must learn to open their hearts, become vulnerable to the compassion of Christ and bend where they are inclined to be rigid.
To avoid the truth and charity trap is to be transformed into something greater than we imagined is possible. It takes constant vigilance and steady sacrifice. Then, with great grace and a self forgetfulness we may come to the point where truth and charity are one in lives that are simple and free. It is, to use T.S.Eliot’s phrase, “a condition of complete simplicity costing not less than everything.” and when we arrive there we will begin to know the mind of Christ.