The subject of love comes up a lot, but not necessarily where you think it might. For instance, when people discuss cultural shifts and political issues, they surprisingly include ‘love’ in their comments. In the words of one of my favorite book/movie characters, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means”.
People say that if you criticize someone you are not loving, and since the Bible tells us to love, we shouldn’t criticize. Some even say that if you point out something wrong you are the opposite of loving; in contemporary vernacular, a ‘hater’.
The Bible, indeed, tells us to love. It also encourages wisdom, discernment, and warns of judgment. The Jesus who loved and laughed also used a whip and turned over the money changer’s tables in the synagogue. He used the rather offensive comparison “whitewashed tomb” and “son of hell”. He predicted that Sodom (fire and brimstone, anyone?) would have it easier than some towns on judgment day. Those are just samples. There are others. Look them up. We wouldn’t call Him unloving, would we?
We’re supposed to speak the truth in love. That’s not the same as making everybody comfortable (though I and I’ll bet you, too, prefer it). The love part is important. So is the truth part. In fact, if you try to show love by ignoring or believing a lie, I would venture to say oh so gently, it’s not loving. People need truth to be set free. Covering up truth with feel good comments will kill them.
The struggle, of course, is the how and when. Telling the truth doesn’t confuse truth with your favorite opinions. Telling the truth doesn’t mean being obnoxious, but it also doesn’t mean blending into the crowd and thinking something real hard, hoping someone will telepathically hear you. It is loving and approachable, but clear about certain boundaries, unwilling to roll over on our backs to the Father of Lies, regardless of the form he takes.
New Testament scripture encourages us to overcome evil with good. That phrase is one of my personal mantras. But overcoming evil with good doesn’t preclude shining light on the truth. We can all agree that opinions abound, even about what the Bible says. Hearsay doesn’t cut it in the courts, and it shouldn’t cut it with any thinking person. It starts with reading your Bible, not just repeating what you’ve read somewhere or heard elsewhere. Read the Old Testament. Read the New Testament. Biblical literacy cannot be overstated nor over-rated.
That, perhaps, is the seed of this post. I’m not speaking to – probably – most of you who are doing your best to represent Christ. But there are a growing number of Christians who are falling into the culture’s belief system and calling it Christian. It isn’t.
Look, we don’t want to walk around disagreeing with everyone. If you’re convinced I should run the Christmas program your way or wear my hair differently, I invite you to keep that truth to yourself. But when a lie – big and bold and anti-scriptural – is staring us in the face, how are we going to explain our cowardice to God? I’m pretty sure we can’t make pretty excuses at that point. Telling the truth doesn’t mean prevailing or even arguing. It just means putting it out there. God does the rest.
We’re all pretty disgusting sometimes. And weak. And forgiven. We don’t want to be the guy that criticizes others and doesn’t see his own faults. That was more of a problem a number of years ago. Now we have the opposite, but just as serious problem. We need to love people enough to tell them the truth. Please consider: When someone dismisses important tenants of scripture, preferring to wrap everything up in a pretty bow called love, it’s not loving. It’s lazy.
Quotes: Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride by William Goldman, John 2:15, Matthew 23:27, Matthew 23:15, Luke 10:12, John 8:44, Romans 12:21; Photo: dreamstime-royalty-free-stock-image-cup-of-coffee-and-beans-22977266.jpg