The trinity of love consists, according to Christian Schwartz book “The 3 colors of love”, of truth grace and justice. The scriptures rarely mention truth or grace without mentioning justice, but what if any is the relationship between the three?
Grace is the word most often associated with love, when someone is graceful we understand this as loving, forgiveness is easily understood as god’s love in action. Truth on the other hand is often perceived as hard and ungraceful. Justice is even harder than truth and is often symbolised with a sword.
So why does the scriptures insist on bundling these three concepts together (look In the original texts for: Haesed, aemunnah and sedaqua)? Why would a scholar like Christian Schwartz hold that these three are the sum of love, that love cannot be without any of these components?
Let’s start with love, to love someone or to be loving towards someone implies relationship, and so it is within the framework of relationship we must understand love. You cannot love someone without seeing them (to be seen is to be loved, to be loved is to be seen). To see someone does not mean just to perceive their person, but rather knowing them. To truly know them, or to know the truth about them. Unless you know the truth about a person, unless you see behind the mask, you do not truly love them, you love the mask, the fictional character you have been shown. This is not true love. So truth is a prerequisite for love.
To show the truth about oneself, one must feel safe, one must feel that the other person will not judge who you truly are, you need the other person to be full of grace, forgiving, accepting. And so grace becomes the prerequisite for showing up as oneself. Although it must also be said that even in the face of grace, it takes great courage to she’d the mask, to be vulnerable and show up as oneself. If grace then is the prerequisite for truth, and if truth is the prerequisite for love, then truth and grace are both vital components of love.
How does Justice fit into this matrix? Before we can answer this we must ask what is justice? A simple answer would be that justice is things set right. Although many people associate justice with punishment, this is not the same as justice. Justice is what happens when the kingdom of god comes about, when things are put right, relationships set in their proper place. To find out that something is unjust, that a relationship is unbalanced, that someone is taken advantage of, we must first know the truth about the involved parties. Injustice hides in secrecy, truth brings injustice to the light. When the truth is known justice can happen, things can be set right. People whom live under oppression (injustice) often stay in it because of shame, sometimes because they think it is their own fault the injustice has happened (this is often the case when a corrosive “gospel” of blame and sin management has been preached). Shame can only be dispelled by the graceful truth, it is not your fault! So grace is required for the truth of injustice to be known. However justice does not happen just because the truth of injustice is known. For justice to happen the other party in the relationship must be addressed so things can be set right. So truth must be spoken again, but for the offender truth spoken without grace will most often not be heard. Furthermore in relationship there needs to be balance, each person involved must get from the relationship what they need from the relationship, this is justice. It is important to remember that this does not mean equally or exactly the same as each person is unique and their needs are equally unique. Justice is never blind, unbiased. Justice needs to see the truth and take the side of the oppressed, the have not. Justice is the kingdom of god, a relationship set right, the world set right one relationship at the time.
So these three: truth, grace and justice mark the complexity and completeness of love.
To tell the truth about oneself so justice can prevail one needs an environment of grace. To tell the truth about another so justice can happen one must do so with grace to be heard.
I feel this is summed up beautifully in Mika 6:8
He has shown all you people what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8 TNIV)
Here it is, we are to do what is right, this is not a list of do’s and don’ts but rather whatever constitutes justice in the present moment, what is god’s vision for this moment, in this relationship. We are also to love mercy, to love grace, to act gracefully and seek out grace communities, to surround ourselves with grace. And then we are to walk humbly, what does this mean? The word humble comes from the Latin humus, which means earth, so we are humble when we are down to earth. This is not to cast our eyes down and be submissives, but rather to be true, to know the truth about ourselves and neither think to highly or to lowly about ourselves, to not pretend to be something we are not, but to just be who we are, true.