We cannot see the truth without love. Discovering the truth is not a neutral enterprise. It requires a dedication that ultimately derives from love, a love of the truth, a passion for the truth. And the fount of all love is God's love. Without the love of God in our hearts, we cannot see the truth.
I was reminded of this while writing a two-part series on climate change denial. It is the love of God in the hearts of those in denial about climate change, or those who are not taking action, which will help them both see and do the truth. Their desire for truth must become stronger than their desire for money, or stronger than the arrogance/insecurity that fuels their ideology, or stronger than any fears that may be preventing them from accepting and acting upon the truth about climate change.
Recently, former Vice President Gore wrote an article in Rolling Stone arguing that if reason was simply allowed to prevail, we would overcome global warming. But reason without love won't help people see the truth. Our ability to reason, in fact, can and does serve either side.
That love is what allows us to see the truth seems counter-intuitive based on common notions of love. Feelings of love are supposed to make us less able to see the truth, say, about our lover's faults, or our children's lack of talent. We can be "blinded by love." These feelings of attraction and attachment can either blind us, or they can deepen our understanding if we allow them to be connected to real love.
For Christians, reality (i.e. what's really true) is all about love. The fount of love is the love of God, God's love. The Universe exists because the Father, Son and Holy Spirit wanted to share the love within the Trinity with other beings who have the ability to freely love in return. That's the ultimate purpose of our story: to freely love God back and thereby become who we were created to be.
To love fully requires both trust and truth. As finite creatures we cannot see all truth, and so we lovingly trust God with what we cannot see. As the Apostle Paul says, we "see through a glass darkly" (1 Corinthians 13:12, KJV). But to love is to strive to see what we can, and not deny what reality presents us about ourselves or how the world works or the challenges society faces.
So by love I mean a Christian understanding of love: love of God, love for others.
Christian love seeks out the truth, the reality of a situation, our condition. God's love for us creates a foundation for seeking the truth in any situation. Because of God's love we can be honest about our own sinfulness, for example. God loves us as we are, but because He loves us He wants us to be whom He created us to be.
The same is true for the rest of His creation. God wants the rest of His creation to be what He created it to be; He wants His intentions for it to be fulfilled because He loves it.
Our role as image-bearers, those who were created to image or reflect God on Earth, is to freely help create what God's love intends within ourselves, within all of our relationships, within society and amongst societies and within His creation. And to do so we need to see the truth as much as we are able.
And so love needs truth. The meaning of our existence, our purpose, requires truth. To deny the truth about ourselves, or about a problem like global warming, is to thwart both love and the truth.
But to know the truth requires a love for the truth. And the truth will in fact set us free, so that empowered by love we can freely do the truth, so that our lives can become the embrace of love and truth.
However much love and truth embrace, that's how far we will be able to travel in our journey to overcome global warming.
The Rev. Jim Ball is author of 'Global Warming and the Risen LORD: Christian Discipleship and Climate Change.'