HOW TO HOLD FAST TO THE REAL GOSPEL WITHOUT WATERING DOWN LOVE
There is so much confusion today around the love of God. God is love, but it seems people are questioning what love looks like and how it behaves. This questioning has gone so far as to examine and even doubt the reality of moral absolutes.
I have seen that the lack of understanding around the love of God has given birth to some very strange theology that is being preached worldwide. In a confused effort to love people, many Christians have chosen to normalize sin so as to not offend or hurt those who are living in sin. The result? A culture of powerless people who remain shackled to their addictions and imprisoned by their ever-changing passions!
In fact, the unhealthy need for some churches to reconcile people to themselves instead of to God has the ability to undermine the congregation’s journey to wholeness and reduce them to spineless sinners. Unlike Jesus, many leaders in the 21st century are obsessed with wooing masses with sophistication, wowing them with articulation, and keeping them with clever motivation.
This misguided theology, built on a foundation of a misunderstanding of God’s love, is reshaping mainstream culture, shifting people’s mindsets and changing the behavior of entire communities. I believe that God has ordained us to be cultural architects and as such, we need to be concerned about what is shaping our communities! At what point does our Christian compliance become destructive to our congregations…our silence a doormat…and our sympathy a license for those who perpetrate evil?
Being a virtue-less cesspool so that dirty people (all of us get dirty at times) don’t feel bad about being dirty, undermines our divine call to help filthy people get clean!
LOVING WITH CONVICTION
Don’t get me wrong, I know that most leaders are simply doing their best without intention to mislead! For many church leaders, the ability to share a message without offending anyone or convicting the congregation is viewed as an art that must be mastered. But in an effort to love all people, we sometimes miss this foundational truth: there is no such thing as love without conviction!
For example, love is loyal therefore disloyalty brings conviction. Love is pure so impurity causes conviction. Love always tells the truth therefore lying brings conviction. Love always hopes so hopelessness breeds conviction.
1 John 4:1 says, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” I’m not going to talk about false prophets today but I do want to talk about love.John continues in verse 16: “We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.”The point that John is making is that God IS love and He is the SOURCE of all love. It should be noted here that love isn’t God, but God is love!
There is a big difference between saying, “My dog is a girl and my girl is a dog!” I propose that these are not interchangeable. We shouldn’t make a God out of love but instead, see love as a manifestation of our connection with God. When we make love a god instead of the attribute of knowing God, we perform for love instead of from love. Furthermore, when we search for love, we can miss the author of love!
How do we love people and stand by our convictions? We must love others MORE THAN we love our convictions, but we can’t love others INSTEAD OF our convictions.
As many people point out, Jesus forgave the woman caught in adultery. YES, it’s true, but He also loved her enough to exhort her to, “Go and sin no more.”
NORMALIZING SIN DOES NOT PRODUCE FREEDOM
Let me be clear — it’s not that Christians are better than anybody else — no way! We have simply acknowledged our sin and our need for a Savior. In other words, we know we have a problem and we’ve allowed God to provide the solution. But there is no solution until we acknowledge our problem. It’s impossible to help someone with a problem they don’t believe they have.
The truth is that certain sins might be common (and/or politically correct), but they’re never normal. Furthermore, making sin acceptable undermines any chance for a real resolution. Leaving people hopelessly stuck in their sin isn’t loving; it’s ridiculous, cruel, reckless and irresponsible.
Jesus died to save sinners FROM sin not TO sin!
GRACE ISN’T CHEAP!
Let me put it like this: everyone needs mercy and grace to recover from failure (sin). Mercy means you don’t get what you deserve (punishment). Mercy pardons us. Grace means you get what you don’t deserve, (the power to change). In other words, grace empowers us into holiness. But the only way to receive mercy and experience grace is to admit you are wrong, (this is called confession), and agree that you want to change, (this is called repentance).
If you normalize sin by insisting your behavior is not sinning and is instead “just who you are”, then you can’t receive mercy or grace because both require you to be wrong.
Therefore, I defend your right to sin, (as long you are not sinning against someone else), but I will never agree to normalizing sin in culture or my community because, in doing so, I would be agreeing to leave hurting people in their pain.
TAKING ACTION WITH COMPASSION
So then, how do we help those who are living in sin, which inevitably produces pain in their lives?
We must hold fast to the TRUTH that you are not the temptations you resist — no matter how strong the pull is towards sin in your life or how long it’s been going on. You are only the virtues you embrace!
Compassion is so important in our lives and it must be the central theme in everything we do. But compassion alone is often not enough to make a difference. When Jesus drove the moneychangers out of the temple; turning over their tables and chasing them with a whip, He wasn’t overcome with compassion, He was filled with zeal! (See John 2:17.)
The Greek root word for “zeal” in this passage is “zeo.” Zeo means “to boil over,” or “to be hot or fervent”! At the risk of sounding like I am promoting rage or violence, I must point out that Jesus was overcome with “zeo”…and He was done being passive with the moneychangers. His blood was boiling and they were about to get a piece of His mind! Can you imagine the disciples telling Jesus, “Jesus you need to chillax… calm down,”…or, “people are going to misunderstand you?” No WAY! Jesus loves people but compassion must be accompanied with zeal to see real change.
Let me be clear, I am NOT advocating violence or even force; I am simply saying that we must brave the politically correct spirit and take a stand for righteousness, speak up for morality, and refuse to be passive.
THE FIGHT FOR MORALITY
Morality is now being fought in the cribs of our babies, the wombs of our mothers and in the classroom of the youngest of children. I am not sure sympathy is working! I will not stand by in silence and watch my grandchildren bulldozed into the cesspool of immorality, castrated in the name of tolerance or mutilated for the sake of diversity.
I will love everyone no matter their convictions but I won’t be a doormat to those who want to shove sin down the throat of our children! I will fight for the rights of everyone to have the freedom to make their own choices as they see fit. For instance, what consenting adults do in the privacy of their own bedrooms is not the business of government. However, I will not allow people to intimidate me into normalizing perversion in the lives of our CHILDREN.
What I’m getting at today is that love is not passive! We are commanded to speak the truth in love. Any peace that happens at the expense of morality is not worth having. Solving conflict by selling our souls, or more accurately — the souls of our children — is a price not worth paying! Freedom always comes with a price and the day we decide to stop paying the bill by being willing to take a stand for morality is the day we have begun the short journey back to a concentration camp of slavery.
HOW WILL YOU TAKE ACTION?
Whatever you may be thinking, if you simply keep your thoughts to yourself you will not stand a chance at making a difference in the world. Even if it means that expressing your voice looks different from your neighbor, start today! You may risk being misunderstood, which nobody enjoys, but anyone who does anything great will be; it just goes with the territory. Jesus’ ministry was steeped in misunderstandings and frankly, sometimes He seemed to rather enjoy it. Like the time He gave His “You must eat my flesh and drink My blood,” message. (See John 6:35-69). We must take courage, be bold, and use the voice that God has given us to speak the truth in kindness!
How do you make your voice heard on issues of morality without compromising love? How do you love others without compromising your moral convictions? I’d love to hear your thoughts, process, insights and real-life examples in the comments below!