Original Opinion Piece for August 14 (’14)
“Love.” What a loaded and nuanced concept that the world keeps getting wrong. American culture and the slowly fading postmodern movement redefine love. Liberal theologians, rock star mega-church pastors, and their undiscerning followers are guzzling the liberal love Kool-Aid by the bucket, and the visible church in America is suffering because of it. Their bankrupt view of love is not derived from, or defined by, Scripture any longer. Instead, it is defined by what society deems lovely. It’s being redefined by our culture and adopted by professing believers in Christ. In our modern culture, love isn’t supposed to offend. Offense is most unloving. “Love”, which means anything anyone wants it to mean, must be universally accepting no matter if one engages in a lifestyle of sin. Love, some say, is dependent on human emotion, changing like a chameleon. Love, as defined by society, affirms sin to avoid making someone feel bad; many mainline churches swallow this shallow idea. What a travesty!
To be sure, the Bible speaks endlessly of love and exhorts Christians to love people, both believers and unbelievers, indiscriminately as Christ did. We are to love those who persecute us, those who seek to tear us down, those who hate God and His commandments. God’s infallible, inerrant, and completely perfect Word instructs Christians to walk in a way worthy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to that end we must remain faithful to the Word of God by loving those who hate or oppose us. I fall short. We all fall short of such commandments. No doubt we struggle to love those who hate us and even those who don’t. We’re sinners. We will continue to fall short of God’s demands while in the flesh and we must continually guard against destructive and cruel behavior through constant Bible study and prayer. We must be steadfast because society is bent on, and succeeding at, perverting the very concept of biblical love; professing believers are blindly falling in line. Love is being replaced with an emotionally driven, morally relativistic, insufficient, totally sentimental form of love that harms unbelievers.
Before I go any further, let me be clear about what I am not saying. I am not making a case to be offensive for the sake of being offensive. I am not calling for Christians to abandon gracious attitudes toward the lost or condone the harsh treatment of unbelievers. I am certainly not advocating the twisted and childish tactics employed by apostates such as the Westboro Baptist “church”. These attitudes toward the lost are harmful, unbiblical, and unacceptable for any Christian. Period. No exceptions. So, what am I saying? Well, sometimes (most of the time?) biblical truth hurts. It hurts because the Bible exposes us to our corrupt and sinful nature. The Bible affirms that no one is righteous, not even one. The wonderful Gospel of Jesus Christ is offensive. We can’t change that, nor should we try to. The cross is folly to those who aren’t in Christ and the Bible makes that point abundantly clear in 1 Corinthians. So what’s the issue?
When I hear professing Christians speak about loving sinners I have to stop and listen closely with a discerning ear. What do they mean by love? Have they cowered to the screaming voices and stomping feet of our relativistic culture and abandoned their biblical position in an effort to avoid confrontation? Unfortunately, most of the time, the answer seems to be a resounding ‘yes’. Love, it seems, is being redefined by professing Christians in an eerily similar way that our secular culture has redefined marriage. By and large, the evangelical mainline church has reduced love to mere sentimentality and abandoned biblical truth to avoid offending unbelievers. Capitulating on biblical truth to appease the consciences of those who aren’t in Christ—all in the name of love—is nothing less than watering down the gospel.
A prime example of cashing in biblical truth to appease our anything-goes-as-long-as-it-makes-you-feel-good culture is the Marin Foundation’s ‘I’m Sorry’ campaign. On the surface, the campaign looks to be a legitimate ministry. Its goal is to apologize to the LGBT community for the past transgressions of some churches. The Marin Foundation says it is committed to “making the first step towards relational reconciliation in a tangible way“. I don’t have an issue with that statement. It’s so ambiguous, it doesn’t really mean anything. I’m willing to admit that harm has been done to the LGBT community by professing Christians. In fact, I’m certain of it. After all, we’re sinners. If I, in my sin, hurt my own family, why would I think I haven’t hurt those who are not my family? However, upon further inspection of the core goals and philosophy of the Marin Foundation’s ‘I’m Sorry’ campaign, it becomes clear that saying “I’m sorry” is the only thing they advocate. That is something I take issue with.
You will be hard pressed to find the gospel proclaimed, let alone mentioned, anywhere on the Marin Foundation’s website. Of all the testimonials I read through, I couldn’t find one instance where the gospel was clearly and accurately proclaimed to the lost or otherwise. Apologizing to the LGBT community for the past transgressions of the visible church opened lines of communication. Briefly, it opened the door to boldly proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ but that opportunity was quickly squandered away while professing Christians hugged it out with the lost. Instead of following up their apology with a biblical picture of what sin is and how we all deserve God’s righteous judgment, these professing believers affirmed the lost in their sin by not sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. One can only assume they failed to call them to repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and trust in Him alone for the forgiveness of their sin in an effort to love these people and not offend them! What kind of love is that?
The Marin Foundation and its disciples aren’t the only group at fault for such blatant biblical ignorance. I chose it because of the publicity it garnered via social media. The Marin Foundation’s ‘I’m Sorry’ campaign is what a culture-friendly love looks like: void of any truth and affirming sin in the name of love. The Emergent Church and it’s so-called pastors like Rob Bell, Brian McLaren, Tony Jones, and Doug Pagitt are equally guilty of replacing biblical truths with post-modern philosophy. They work hard at replacing orthodox Christianity with a culture-friendly version of the gospel which really is no gospel at all. Mainline denominations are guilty of this biblical treason too. Instead of leading the lost to the cross of Christ, these so-called believers are leading the lost straight to the gates of hell. Such is the postmodern time in which we live. The scary thing is, this love—a love founded mainly on emotion and a desire to be accepted by the modern culture—is infiltrating once-upon-a-time conservative churches and changing the narrative of love within evangelical circles. People are buying in to this secular brand of love and we’re losing souls in the process. Some kinda love, huh?
Why would we, as professing Christians, affirm a sinner in their sin? Why would we tell them everything will be “OK”? This isn’t a skinned knee or bruised elbow we’re talking about. To know the love of Christ is to understand what He did at Calvary. He was our perfect substitute. He paid the price we could not pay. Christ bore the full wrath of God on the cross for those who call out to Him and repent of their sin. We are all sinners in need of a Savior! Those who are found in their sin at the day of judgement will suffer God’s righteous wrath and will spend eternity apart from Him. Proclaiming these truths to those who aren’t in Christ is true love. It is biblical love. To exclude these biblical truths from our dialogue with the lost is nothing short of being criminally negligent with all of eternity on the line.
A friend once used the following illustration I find most helpful here:
Imagine a blind man walking toward a cliff. If he walks off this cliff he will surely die. Watching this blind man make his way toward certain death are two men. One man calls out to the blind man and tells him that Jesus loves him, he shouts that he himself loves the blind man but never warns him of the cliff and his certain doom if he doesn’t change course immediately. The second man observing the blind man trotting to his death calls out in a loud voice and warns him to stop. He rightly warns the blind man of his coming fate and orders him to stop and turn around otherwise he will die. Who loved the blind man more? What kind of love is this? This, brothers and sisters, is the biblical love we need to exhibit and bring to our dying world.