I recently had an interesting conversation with a friend about a particular spiritual/social/moral issue – one on which the Bible plainly speaks. Even though my friend recognized the moral and spiritual implications of the issue at hand, he felt that the Church must refrain from correcting it. “After all,” he warned, “our job is to love people. If we make them feel bad about sin they may not be willing to hear the message of the Gospel.”
If you do not see the error in my friend’s way of thinking, you are not alone! For a vast number of people throughout our nation, it seems that unity has become more important than truth, and pluralism has become its own religion. Many people in our time agree with my friend, or with the late, popular teleevangelist Robert Shuler, who said:
“I don’t think anything has been done in the name of Christ and under the banner of Christianity that has proven more destructive to human personality and, hence, counterproductive to the evangelism enterprise than the often crude, uncouth, and unchristian strategy of attempting to make people aware of their lost and sinful condition” (Time, March 18, 1985).
So what is the error in this way of thinking? After all, Jesus DID come with open arms, right? He DID extend love to sinners and defend the outcasts and destitute, right? And didn’t He command us to do the same? The answer is a resounding YES. In fact, the command to love is so central to the New Testament’s teaching that John said it was impossible to love God unless we loved others. On that, my friend and I agree.
Our difference centers around the meaning of the word LOVE.
Love means so much more than the blind permissiveness embraced by our culture. Where popular opinion holds that love should never correct or rebuke or even question others –(since those things could make a person feel bad) – Scripture teaches that love means that we always have the best interest of others in mind. In other words, love means that I want what is best for you, no matter what. I want you to be healthy and safe and prosperous. I want your greatest good . . . a healthy relationship with God . . . even if that means that you must take bitter medicine to achieve it.
I am a parent to three children that I love beyond words. My greatest desire is that they succeed in life, and I know that their success depends largely on the paths they walk. Some roads in life lead to destruction. Some behaviors lead to spiritual ruin. Some lifestyles cripple a person’s willingness/ability to commune with God. Love demands that I point out those slippery places; that I warn my children of danger; that I correct them when they drift. Like Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13, love rejoices with the truth.
This takes me full-circle, back to my conversation with my friend. If the people of God place a higher priority on unity than on truth, the message of the Gospel will never accomplish what it should in the hearts of those around us. Why? Because the TRUTH of the Gospel is that we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and therefore, we need a Savior! God calls us to REPENT of our sin and turn to Him. How can we repent unless we are willing to acknowledge our sin? How can we turn to Truth unless we first acknowledge error.
That’s why followers of Christ must be courageous to stand for Truth. We must find our voice. We don’t have to proclaim Truth angrily or vengefully or even gleefully. But we must stand for Truth . . . even when it is unpopular. After all, if we do not show a better way, how will anyone find it? Ironically, our motivation is love.