It was one of those amazing moments teachers are given—moments that you can’t plan for and don’t know you are going to have. I was teaching the one seminary course that many of the future pastors didn’t want to take. It was a course about pastoral care/counseling. My class was filled with prospective pastors who thought that if they preached theologically sound and exegetically accurate sermons, no one who heard them would need counseling. Since I knew that the students in my class didn’t really want to be there and weren’t really hungry for what I had to offer, I began each semester by telling stories of the messes that some people had made of their lives and how they had looked to me to help them through difficulty and disaster. I would tell these stories until someone in the class would say, “Okay, we get it, we really will need what this class has to offer.”
In the middle of one of these stories, a student raised his hand and said, “All right, Professor Tripp, we know we’re going to have these projects in our churches; tell us what to do with them so we can get back to the work of ministry.” I was both stunned by what he said and thankful for what it
allowed me to say. Here was a man heading for ministry who clearly loved ideas more than he loved people! My poor student was far from the biblical norm, “[Speak] the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15). The call is to do theology in loving community with other people. Truth not spoken in love ceases to be
true because it’s bent and twisted by other human agendas. I cannot forsake truth for relationships, and I cannot forsake relationships for truth. They need to be held together, because we need to understand truth in community with one another to compensate for our blindness and bias, and we need truth to
define for us what kind of community we should live in together.
Finally, we must understand that theology is never an end in itself, but a means to an end, the end that we would progressively become like the One who is the ultimate definition of what love is and what love does. In his grace, he provides everything we need to be a loving community and theologically pure at the same time. To forsake either is not only a failure to love, but bad theology as well. It both compromises God’s truth and rejects his call. It is in a community of humble love that we are best positioned to understand all that God has said to us in his Word.
For further study and encouragement: Ephesians 4:1–16
(Source: New Morning Mercies by Paul Tripp)