Jan
30

The Question of Love

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© Mirsad Mehulic | Dreamstime Stock Photos

      One of the most difficult topics today is the pressing issue of how to love someone whose values contradict our own, and how to respond as Christians. Sometimes that is easy. I can love a drunk without buying him/her a bottle of liquor; love a gossiper, without encouraging her to gossip; love the glutton, without calling gluttony good; love a divorcee, without rejoicing and celebrating divorce; love someone of another faith, without accepting their theology.  Yet, in every generation, there are one or more groups of people who define love as explicitly approving their sin as good or godly, celebrating it with them, or denying our own faith and values. When we go along, we are exhibiting man’s love–not God’s love–in the effort to make ourselves or others feel loved. Overlooking sin is one thing. Calling sin as though it were not is serious business.

We long to be loving AND we long to honor God’s Word; however,  we are becoming increasingly confused by how to do both when they seem to contradict one another. Some argue that because we are by nature hypocrites, we should just love. Others say that because God’s Word is true, we should just honor His Word.  He says to do both–and that is what we must do–but we cannot do it in our own strength.

As in everything else, we must lay our selves before God displaying our desire to love others and our desire to honor His Word and, without knowing how to do that, then go forth and do both by His wisdom and power alone–moment by moment. When we try to anticipate in advance what that looks like we are relying on our own logic and end up falling to one side of the other of the narrow way–either celebrating sin in order to be loving, or being unloving in order to honor God’s Word. The greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart soul and mind. The second is to love one another. So let us ask Jesus to help us be more loving . . . cognizant of our own failings and weakness and hypocrisy…without denying God’s Word.

Yes we are hypocrites. Someone asked (in pointing out how we pick and choose what to consider literally in the Bible) whether we would have a weigh-in before church to “weed out the gluttons”. Of course not. But that is not the right comparison. Would we allow a man in adultery, who claims it is good, to serve? Would we allow a noted gossip, who refuses to repent, to teach the congregation? Would we allow a glutton, who preached unbiblical eating habits, to teach our children? Would we allow the drunk who said drunkenness was good, to lead the choir? Would we allow the polygamist who advocated polygamy (for it is on its way to becoming legal in the US as well) to lead a Sunday school? Would we allow an unmarried person living with someone before marriage to head a ministry? All in the name of not being hypocrites? Or in the name of love? Would we call someone hateful for saying drunkenness is a sin, or adultery, or gossip, or fornication? Accepting or condoning sin in order to be considered loving does not make us non-hypocrites. God loves us so we might be saved, not so we might feel loved and stay the same.

It’s true, Jesus loved sinners and fellowshipped with them, but never in a way that implied approval of their sin. We can welcome everyone to visit church, and we can love all (even if their definition of love is different than our own)–but church is primarily a place of fellowship and rememberance for those who know Christ. None of us have arrived, and that isn’t the point. The point is that we are all striving for the same thing–and it isn’t “happiness” or “feeling loved’ or our rights to do whatever we want or love whomever we desire. Is one sin more pressing or persistent than another? I say no. I struggle with my sins just as much as another person with theirs. Our goal is to submit ourselves and our desires to God again and again, and grow in holiness despite our stubborn minds and hearts and bodies that continue to be drawn toward sin.

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