FOR THE LOVE OF ELEPHANTS AND DONKEYS (Part 2 of 2)
by Jeff Hagan
In my last article/blog I addressed the issue of loving our enemies and those who disagree with us. This piece is simply a continuation and conclusion regarding the same topic. As way of a simple reminder, due to the volatile political climate we find ourselves, the title words of “Elephants” and “Donkeys” are merely used to represent the Republican/Conservative and Democratic parties respectively. This is not a political piece, but the reference seemed fitting for this topic..
Biblical love must be honest love. In other words, when we love others that does not mean we support or approve of everything that person does. God's love for us is an example of this, “while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” In fact, an appropriate biblical love has to include sincere concern and care for the person we are loving, and if that is the case, when we believe they are behaving wrongly and/or harmfully (to themselves or others) we would actually be acting unloving if we did NOT inform them of our concern.
However, keeping the above in mind, it is essential to remember that what we may think is sin or “wrong” behavior for a person may not be sin for that individual at all. Where the Bible has gray areas, where the Bible leaves some breathing room, humility in interpretation is required of all Christ-followers. Of course this does not mean tossing out all beliefs and convictions, the Bible is quite black and white on countless doctrines. Even with humility and being open for the Spirit to reveal more and/or deeper truths to us, “in understanding of the Word of God, we cannot jettison all that we do believe, if we were to do that, then there would be no warrant for the kind of love”(2) I have been making a case for in these articles/blogs.
When holding our beliefs, when adhering to essentials and clearly taught aspects found in Scripture, humility doesn't require us to compromise those beliefs just because others we are loving do not see or agree with those beliefs found in the Bible.
This brings us back to the point of biblical love being honest love. It brings us back to the point that it would actually be unloving NOT to stand one's ground and continue to oppose, in those that I love, behavior which is unbiblical and in the end harmful to that individual or to someone else.
Unfortunately, far too often the responses from Christians when they see what they interpret as sin, or even what is sin, is arrogance, bitterness, mean-spiritedness, hypocritical judgment, etc. That's part of the reason I laid out this two part series as I did (I suggest reading part one to fully understand what I mean by this).
“It is only when we take very seriously the Scriptural mandate to love and and the Scriptural description of what Christian love is that we may proceed to oppose behavior we think is wrong. But, in the end, we must reject the notion, that, if we really love someone, we will never oppose whatever they want to do.”(3)
God Focused Love
Our love for others, for our enemies and those we disagree with, can only be pure and true if it comes from our love for God. Mark 12:30-31, “...you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength...You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is not other commandment greater than these” (ESV). We love God for who He is and what He has done, not for any perceived benefits or blessings we may receive. In fact, if there is no sense of urgency within that your ultimate reason for placing your faith in Jesus Christ is because He deserves it, then you should really evaluate your faith. Jonathan Edwards called that kind of faith “counterfeit” faith.
Now of course there are blessings for those adopted into God's family, more than we can count or ever imagine. But if being blessed is what your Christian faith is all about, then your motives are skewed at the very least. If that is the reason and goal of your Christian walk, your are disobeying Jesus Himself and not seeking first the Kingdom of God and the glory of God (see Matthew 6:33).
Loving our neighbors, that includes others, enemies, strangers, those close, those far, not just our literal neighbors, is the second greatest command of Jesus. So, our love for our “neighbor” must always be subjected to our love for God and the things of God. If there is a clear path paved in the Bible, we are not showing pure love to our “neighbor” if we ignore that clear path, that clear teaching, even for the sake of loving that “neighbor.” We should in no way love our “neighbor” (anyone) in a manner that implies our “neighbor” is more important than God.
As stated previously, we have to be gracious, humble and sensitive because there are times that what we may think is sin, what our bias may view is sin, is not sin at all for the individual we are attempting to judge. But, it must be said in that same breath, disagreement and even tension doesn't make proper love impossible. Often times the best, healthiest love is shown in the midst of disagreement.
“While we were still sinners”
Romans 5:8, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ dies for us” (ESV).
God didn't make the perfect, substitutionary, loving, grace filled, merciful sacrifice for us because we were perfect and sinless. Quite the opposite, it was made because we were sinners. I think that, as much as possible, our dealings with those we view as sinning, those who may be our enemies, those who do not agree with us, should be as close to that as humanly possible.
I can think of no better way to wrap this up than to quote Ephesians 4:32 – 52 again (see part one), “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (ESV).
(1) “Two Ways I Should NOT Love Those With Whom I Disagree,” by Sam Logan of the World Reformed Fellowship.
(2) Quote from Ibid.