[Part 7 of 7 – Tough Love]
One of the most recent accounts of Christian unlove was towards then-President-Elect Barack Obama. Saddleback Church’s Rick Warren – author of one of the best-selling books of all time, The Purpose Driven Life – was asked by Barack Obama to pray the invocation at his upcoming inauguration, and he accepted.
Many Christians were up in arms, upset that Rick Warren would even consider being a part of the event.
“I mean, that man doesn’t even agree with our moral code! (And isn’t he a Muslim, anyway?)”
They were saying things like, if Rick Warren prays for Obama, he is essentially putting his stamp of approval on all that Obama does and thinks.
Sadly, these people, which include a lot of high-ranking religious leaders, had it backwards. The Bible says many times to pray for our leaders, not just our Republican leaders. Rick Warren was setting a wonderful, loving example of how a Christian should treat others.
We as Christians have a lot of things backwards, stemming from our frame of mind that has been conditioned by this world for years. How can we change our minds to not jump to negative thoughts when faced with someone who doesn’t agree with us?
The thing is… we have to do what we would do with temptation. Realize immediately that we are being unloving, apologize to the person (if possible), and make a mental record of the event.
The more you focus on changing, the quicker the change will come.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see someone we know to be homosexual and be filled, not with outrage or offense, but with the love that God has for that person?
To see someone as God sees them?
It’s very important. It has been from the beginning. Read what Paul writes:
If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.
If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.
If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.
Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t strut, doesn’t have a swelled head, doesn’t force itself on others, isn’t always “me first,” doesn’t fly off the handle, doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, doesn’t revel when others grovel, takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, puts up with anything, trusts God always, always looks for the best, never looks back, but keeps going to the end.
Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled.
When I was an infant at my mother’s breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good.
We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!
But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.
-1 Corinthians 13:1-13 MSG
This is it. This is the answer.
This is what a Christian should strive to be like. To do anything else would be foolish!
Love is so important that God wants it to infiltrate every thought you have, every action you enact, every word that leaves your lips.
It’s that simple and that difficult.
It will be tough at times, but if you tough it out, you’ll be surprised how quickly your mindset will change.
Don’t shrug it off, it’s very important!
Remember, without love, you’re nothing.
It’s only when we finally see everyone with the unconditional love of God that we can be an effective “witness.”
The Great Commission tells us to go out and make disciples of all the nations, but it doesn’t go into much detail as to how we go about doing that.
But when we look back in the Gospels, how did Jesus spread his message?
When a woman was about to be stoned to death for being sexually immoral, on which side of the line did Jesus stand? Did he pick up a stone, or did he protect the woman?
It was only after this woman experienced Christ’s love that she heard his message.
Jesus didn’t force anyone to listen to him. He invited people, welcomed those who wanted to hear, and showed love to those who were lost.
When soldiers came to arrest Jesus, unjustly and to ultimately kill him, Peter defended his Savior by cutting off a soldier’s ear with his sword. Jesus chastised Peter, picked the ear up and reattached it, healing the man who was still going to arrest him. That should speak volumes.
Very few souls were ever won by someone holding a protest sign. Very few hearts softened after being told how much of a sinner they are. Very few people genuinely find salvation after being scared into it by how horrible Hell is supposed to be.
Salvation and one’s faith are extremely personal matters and often very long journeys. God wants you to witness, but not to do so in a way that turns that person off (i.e., calling them sinners, judging them by the Bible they don’t believe in, telling them about Hell without telling them of God’s love for them, or not stopping when they ask you to).
When you witness in these ways, you might think you are doing good, being persistent, sowing seeds, but all you are really doing is reinforcing the stereotype that Christianity is a religion of judgmental bigots, and that just drives people further away from the faith.
This is the breakdown between witness and love.
Let your actions speak love. Walk your witness. Ask to discuss faith matters with a friend. Ask to tell your story. But beyond that, just be loving. Caring. Unconditionally.
God let us come to him exactly as we were and then he worked on making us more like him, not the other way around.
The point is, that phrase, “Love the sinner, hate the sin,” is flawed. We were going the right direction, but we didn’t quite make it.
When it comes to how we respond to an unsaved world, we should “Forget the sin, love the Child of God.”
We don’t have to condone any actions we deem sinful, but at the same time, we don’t have to point out to them how sinful it is. That shouldn’t be a part of our witness at all, because it’s not our place.
God sees an unsaved soul as a lost lamb, as a prodigal child, as a person whom He loves with all His heart despite anything they might have done. Repenting doesn’t save a soul anymore. Jesus changed that. Repentance is now a response to salvation. Salvation is the first step.
If we truly want to show love to the world and to each other, we need stop focusing on our differences and start realizing what we all have in common: We are all children of God who are just trying to figure life out as we go along with what little understanding we have.
And without love, we are nothing.