I am young, but I’ve been around a lot in church culture. Somewhere in my journey, I distanced myself from the slogan, “Love the sinner, but hate the sin.” I don’t have a problem with the quote itself. (It does seem to be accurate.) I have a problem with the lack of responsibility and sacrifice that seems to accompany this quote. (Not saying this is always the case. It’s just something I’ve noticed.)
That phrase seems to wipe away cobwebs and gray areas in the minds of modernized church culture. Easy Christianity breaths a sigh of relief as Jesus is simplified, theology is once again rock solid, and minds are ever more convinced that love and justice are indeed both part of the God head, and as long as we strive for balance, the path remains straight and narrow to the reward. It seems to comfort the flesh and becomes an excuse to do nothing. Once again, we are compelled to awkwardly express compassion for sinners at a distance, yet hate the sin out loud to our neighbors, up close and personal.
Unrighteous judgement of others often follows self righteousness. I’ve been there.
Ironically, I’ve seen the same people that stalwartly proclaim, “Love the sinner, hate the sin,” cry out in defiant fear of love as they strive for balance. Yes. Fear of love. They fear loving too much lest it defile the price paid on the cross. They fear too much love cancels accountability. They crack the whip of judgment hoping for harmonious balance. They fear justice has entirely left the equation of the New Covenant.
(Just because we reject a part of God doesn’t mean He goes away.)
In this contemporary, churched culture, we have acquired the idea that love is soft, fluffy, easy, free, and has lost its effect to win souls. The idea is that a good, swift kick of justice will even out the fluffy softness of love. We fear that love is a license to sin, a doorway for destruction… This is simply not true of the love of Christ. (Do sinners ask you for a license to sin?? No one asks me. Humans seem to figure it out on their own. 🙂 )
Well, stand back, because this dynamite I’ve been holding inside is about to blow. However nice sounding and theologically correct “balance” sounds, it is not theologically correct.
Justice no longer says, “I condemn you.” It says, “For you [I] was condemned. Go free.” Grace is no longer the opposite of justice,but the fulfillment of it, if you will. (Don’t crucify me for bad theology. :p ) Jesus already paid that price for freedom, therefore grace is just!
I wish for people to grab hold on this realization! No more wishy washy balance act. We can’t split God up in segments and commence the balancing game. He is fully just. He is fully merciful. He is fully God. He is fully Jesus. He is fully Holy Spirit. We can’t balance Him. But He can sure fix us. 🙂 That takes the pressure off of our little theological, identity crisis. Why not just start embracing HIM in fullness?
Not to be presumptuous, but I wonder if the stalwart lovers of men/ haters of sin would react in fear to love if their love had a price?
Maybe we fear love because love casts out fear.
Would this person fear wild love if he remembered his own wretchedness without the grace of the cross?
If he had wrestled in agonizing prayer for his gay friend that needs a love encounter with Jesus, I doubt he would say love is free. If he had been needed, used, and lied to, only to be brushed aside until the next catastrophe, I doubt he would say that love is easy.
If he had been falsely accused of being gay himself, I doubt he would say that love doesn’t hurt.
If he had sacrificed hours to listen to the hurting cry in anguish and anger, I doubt he would say love is weak.
If I can so easily brush aside the unfailing power of His love, I am missing it. I am not experiencing the cost if I feel the need to add to or take away from the sacrifice.
Love is not the absence of truth. Love is the premise by which truth can hit its mark. That is my public response to the “balanced” church culture that says “You can love too much.”
If I have only one shot to win over a person to Jesus, I want to slam dunk love. Because without it, all else is a clanging cymbal. You can kick me for being unbalanced later, but first, let me explain. 🙂
Easy Christianity puts more emphasis on knowing where one stands than being in wild love with the One who holds the key.
Quote from Paul Manwaring: “We have never needed wisdom, truth, knowledge, and understanding more. An Information Age has given us access to perceived knowledge without relationship, intimacy, and spirit led study!” Dead on.
I look at Corinthians and realize that screwed up theology is…well, screwed up, yes. (C’mon, they were idolizing themselves as gods instead of realizing that their different gifts were given by the same Spirit. Pretty lame.)
I am not against the search for good theology, but ironically, undefiled theology never comes without Presence.
I don’t care if “correct theology” is dressed up in a suit and tie and has ten doctorates to boot, I am not impressed. Biblical education is good, but knowledge puffs up without an experiential premise of Presence by which knowledge is ratified, if I can use such a carnal term.
There are incredible treasures to be discovered about Him in scripture, but if there is an abundance of knowledge, yet there is no experience coming out of it, I question such a theology. Jesus is perfect theology. (He came to set things right between God and man.) All else is useless without Him.
I realize many have come to Christ through knowledge or intellectual persuasion, but at some point that realization needs to lead this person into experience.
Experience may not be necessary for truth to be true, but without it, has there really been an encounter with Truth? .
How’s that for balance? 🙂
On loving sinners…
There have been and are people my life who are messed up. They fail at relationships, they have bad language, they have been abused, they have idols, they sleep around, they are angry, they are bitter, they are rejected, they are addicted, they are proud… I’m sure you know many such wounded people.
People say, “You have to love people yes, but make sure you tell them where they need to change.”
My response: Brenda is the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father but by her. She knows how to fix sinners.
Um No. Brenda is not in charge. Brenda does not have the answers. Brenda can not cast the first stone. Therefore: Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father but by Him. That is all.
WE ARE NOT IN CHARGE. We are children, and we only do what our Father says to do.
Discernment can never be understressed. Just because God tells you something ABOUT a person does not mean it is FOR the person to know. 90% of information is for prayer, not reproof. (Also, reproof is usually for believers.) If information is not edifying or lead to Christ, don’t say it. Pray it.
I can not stress enough how ill timed truth can devastate a person. I have experienced it myself, and it sent me down a path of woundedness and bitterness that took me years to recover from.
Learn to know the difference between a word of knowledge and prophesy. (God gives both for different reasons.) A word of knowledge is information given about a person or situation. For example: Jonathon’s left foot is sprained. Or: Jonathon is cheating on his wife. Here is where discernment comes in. It may not edify Jonathon to expose his sin right now, but if you are given a prophetic word to accompany it and build him up, then it would be edifying. Even if you aren’t led to speak this directly to Jonathon, you can still speak/pray prophetically without him present. God doesn’t talk to us by accident.(Knowing about the left foot sprain also gives opportunity for pray. Why else would God tell you? :))
Prophesy has to do with the future, potential, God’s plan, etc. An easy example: Jonathon is going to be a stable leader. Combined word of knowledge and prophecy: 1. Jonathon was sexually abused as a child. 2.God is going to heal him mentally and emotionally, and he will become like a tree planted by the waters. He will be a stable leader. Discernment tells us that Jonathon’s sexual bondage/unfaithfulness is connected to childhood wounds and abuse. Hold back on judgment, get a little perspective from God, and avoid adding to Jonathon’s wounds. We don’t want to break up marriages. The idea is to pray specifically for people as God directs, and give them the message of hope from God for their lives when He directs. See, I’m telling ya, discernment is crucial!
What about rumors concerning sinners or believers who make mistakes? Is it true? Is it not true? My response: If it is true, may I have the discernment to love him well. If it is not true, may I have the discernment to love him well. 🙂 It doesn’t even take a word of knowledge to nail that one. Love celebrates the truth and bears all thing. So love well. Back to love again we are, for it is the greatest commandment.
I have had sin in my life so I understand the craving to be completely exposed yet loved on as if I were perfect. This kind of love changed my life forever. It played a huge part in bringing me back to my first Love. Sinners need this safety. By this safety I am not saying, “I want you to sin.” (I see how it hurts you, and I want you to experience freedom and true fulfillment.) What I am saying is, “I still love you. Come in, let me feed you, let me wash your feet.”
This kind of love is not an excuse to keep sinning. It is an encounter with Love that becomes a reason not to. No, it doesn’t always happen immediately. But I know love never fails. Because people always come back to the people who loved them. When the time is right, (His time, not mine) love will transform and compel them. Again, I am not in charge. I am a lover.
More on loving sinners…
Always keep your love on.
Love is not formal or rigid. It is messy at times. It is misunderstood. But it never fails. It never ever ever fails.
Love is not easy. Love is painful. It can be excruciating. It can mean walking away. It can mean opening up. It can mean sacrifice.
Love is not free. It comes with a cost.
Love is not an excuse. It is a reason.
Love does not mean we are brave. It is the antidote which overcomes fear. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. If I fear, I have not been perfected. (The fear [reverence] of God leaves no room for any other fear.)
Truth is always relevant, whether spoken or not. Truth will have its soapbox moment, but without love, it is meaningless. Truth in wrong season cuts like a lie.
Love does not cancel accountability. Love is the reason we can be accountable and win.
Love paid the highest price, but love is patient. Be patient! Love never fails.
Love is not passive. It compels people.
Love is not soft and without effect. Jesus was not fuzzy. He was buff with love. He agonized in prayer, he rebuked the hypocrites, and he died alone.
Love is not without a price. Jesus sweat blood, he was spit on, he was lied to, he was falsely accused, he endured beating, and he hung naked for love.
To say that love is an excuse, without effect, or too soft to bring change, is an insult to the suffering of Christ.
In order to love people like He did, we have to let people close to us. Modern Christianity has put a wide gap between “church” and sinners, possibly because church has become a Sunday morning ordeal, instead of a 24/7 reality.
Believers are not different because we look a certain way or don’t associate with the druggies, or because we have both feet inside church walls and one hand extended to the poor… Maybe some one will see my good works and want what I have.
This kind of separation/evangelism does not effectively show the love of Christ. Jesus crossed all such cultural lines. He was not confined to the synagogue where “good people” studied God. Both feet were outside walking with the prostitutes, drunkards, demonized, and oppressed. He didn’t set himself apart in appearance or public display, but His did as His Father wished, loving, teaching, serving, healing, and comforting. He accepted people into His heart instead of treating them as outsiders. By this, He was separate. Ironic.
Jesus was temporarily engaged in love on the earth, but fully consumed with the Kingdom being brought to the earth.
The disciples following Jesus were homeless, swindlers, fishermen, prostitutes, and the likes. They were common everyday folks that blended in. But when the presence of God came, they were full of power, discernment, and love and were set apart to do even greater things than Jesus exemplified on the earth.
Earthly barriers became unimportant as heaven’s supply was ever increasing.They became strangers and aliens because of this Kingdom mentality.
When I think of loving people who are currently distant from God, I remember this: I am not a stranger because I am better. I’m a stranger because of who I know. I’m a stranger because I live in another Kingdom. I’m a stranger of this world, but not to the people He loves. That is the difference. The difference makes the difference in loving sinners.
For we have all sinned and fallen short of His glory.