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“Love Rejoices With the Truth”

A Short Commentary On 1 Corinthians 13:6[b]

by Dr. Eitan Bar
4 minutes read

From the outset, justice has been a prominent recurring motif. Discussions on justice appear early in the Torah (e.g., Leviticus 19:15) and are also emphasized by the prophets (e.g., Micah 6:8). In the intricate dance of human interactions, love and justice are often seen as partners whose steps occasionally misalign. While many perceive these forces as distinct or even opposing, a deeper examination reveals that they are profoundly interdependent, each essential to the full expression and existence of the other. Justice manifests in both personal relationships and societal structures, revealing that a true understanding of love is incomplete without a commitment to justice.

Justice, at its core, involves ensuring that everyone receives what they are rightfully due—whether it pertains to rights, opportunities, or resources. In a loving relationship, this principle translates into fair, respectful, and considerate actions of each person’s needs and boundaries. Without a foundation of justice, actions that claim to be motivated by love can easily become unbalanced, leading to dependency, resentment, or even abuse, with marriages being a classic example.

In a broader societal context, justice allows love to extend beyond the confines of individual relationships to encompass community and societal relationships. For example, the principles driving social justice movements are usually rooted in ensuring that every individual is treated with dignity and respect—a clear manifestation of extending love to the broader human family. Efforts to combat racism, poverty, and inequality are fueled by a vision of a more loving society where everyone has the opportunity to thrive. This approach to justice underlines the idea that true love is inherently inclusive and equitable, actively seeking the well-being of all, not just those with whom one shares immediate or superficial connections.

Trust is a critical component of any loving relationship, serving as the infrastructure upon which emotional security is built. However, for trust to develop and sustain itself, the presence of justice is essential. In just relationships, promises are kept, contributions are recognized, and errors are gracefully acknowledged and forgiven. On the other hand, injustice erodes trust, creating an atmosphere filled with suspicion and fear—conditions under which love cannot survive, let alone flourish.

From the beginning, the Hebrew Scriptures strongly emphasize justice as central to God’s character and His expectations for human conduct. Rather than merely adhering to laws, biblical justice is portrayed as integral to righteousness, reflecting God’s holy and just nature. It involves fairness, equity, and compassion, particularly towards the vulnerable and marginalized in society—such as the poor, widows, orphans, and strangers. For instance, the laws given to Moses extensively cover aspects of fairness and equity, prohibiting partiality and ensuring fair treatment for all, including foreigners and servants. Prophets like Amos, Isaiah, and Micah vehemently denounce injustices and demand social equity, emphasizing that true worship of God cannot be separated from the practice of justice.

In the New Testament, Christ further exemplifies and deepens the theme of justice as an expression of love and mercy. He challenges societal norms that oppress the vulnerable and advocates for a justice that transcends mere legalism, aiming instead at restoration and reconciliation. Through parables and teachings, Jesus illustrates that divine justice involves active compassion and practical help for those in need. His approach sets a standard that merges justice with mercy in a transformative manner that points towards the Kingdom of God.

Ultimately, justice amplifies love, making it active and transformative. Love devoid of action toward justice can become superficial, a sentiment that fails to address people’s real needs or hurts. True love compels us to engage deeply with the world and its issues, driving us toward acts of justice that seek to heal, restore, and build.

The necessity for justice in expressions of love is starkly evident in contexts where it is absent. In environments riddled with injustice, love struggles to establish itself, as individuals find it difficult to feel loved while they are simultaneously oppressed or marginalized. Thus, justice is not merely a companion to love but its enabler, creating environments where love can genuinely flourish.

As we expand this discussion to a global scale, the interconnection between love and justice becomes even more significant. In an increasingly interconnected world, our actions—or inactions—can have far-reaching impacts. The principle of justice ensures that love is not confined by geographical boundaries but is extended to all humanity, recognizing the inherent dignity and worth of every person, regardless of nationality, ethnicity, or economic status.

The global issues we face, like poverty and violations of human rights, demand actions rooted in love and justice. For instance, tackling heavy air pollution transcends environmental responsibility; it’s an expression of love for future generations and a step towards equity for communities who suffer its impacts the most. It’s also living out our biblical mandate to cultivate and keep the earth (Genesis 2:15). Likewise, combating poverty and human rights abuses aligns with the biblical command to love our neighbor. These challenges are not just social or political concerns; they are deep ethical obligations that compel us to enact our principles of love and justice in meaningful and extensive ways.

True Justice is Restorative and Reconciliatory

One of the most powerful aspects of biblical justice is its capacity for restoration and reconciliation. Biblical justice is not about retribution but about restoring harmony. This concept is vividly illustrated in the ministry of Jesus, who came to “proclaim good news to the poor… and to set the oppressed free” (Luke 4:18). Jesus sought to restore individuals into society, reflecting the ultimate vision of justice as a restorative rather than a destructive, punitive process. Seeking justice should almost never entail boycotting, excommunication, ostracism, or canceling individuals, as is often practiced in religious cults. Rather, godly justice strives to stop and repair the wrongs done and restore and reconcile individuals, relationships, and societies.

In practical terms, if love is the motivation, justice is the action. This means advocating for systems and structures that not only correct wrongs but also restore individuals to full community membership. This could involve supporting rehabilitative rather than merely punitive criminal justice systems, advocating for economic systems that allow for genuine opportunity for all—especially the underprivileged—and fostering cultural attitudes that value reconciliation and healing over division and strife.

By embedding justice into our conceptual framework of love, we redefine the dynamics of our interactions. This integrated perspective challenges us not merely to post about love on social media but to enact it in ways that affirm the worth and dignity of every individual we come in touch with. In doing so, justice and love together create a synergy that has the power to transform society. Through this lens, we see that just as love without justice is incomplete, so is justice without love. Loveless justice becomes mechanical, perhaps even harsh, lacking the warmth and empathy that love naturally infuses into acts of fairness and equity, reflecting that our God is a Father, not a tyrant. Thus, the integration of justice with loving-kindness not only enhances our relationships but also enriches the very essence of how we understand and practice both concepts.

Always bear in mind that reminding oneself of the truth is also important. Therefore, always dismiss the voices telling you you are a failure, whether they come from others around you or from inside your head. They are lies.

This article is from my book, “The Theology of Love: Christianity’s Most Underrated Doctrine.

The Theology of Love

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Dr. Eitan Bar
Author, Theologian, Activist