"Unity without verity is no better than conspiracy." - John Trapp

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Confounding Love and Approval

Recent things on the internet have had me thinking about how we treat each other. John Mellencamp wrote that "what we do to each other are the worst things that we do" ("Another Sunny Day 12/25") and the internet seems to confirm that sentiment. There is a basic disconnect in the way we think about things and it is not just a recent mindset. Disagreements mean separation.

While it's not the main point of this post I want to say up front that I cannot think of a time when threats would be acceptable except in response to someone threatening your person or other people. Even then, I see that less as a threat and more of as a warning. "If you pursue this course, then I will be forced to pursue that course" where "that course" may be anything from involving the authorities to self-defense. But to threaten someone for the ideas they espouse is wrong.

Thinking about this has lead to a simple conclusion, and that is that human beings have a problem confounding love and approval. This isn't a new problem as it is present in the gospels. The Pharisees assume that by eating with "tax-gathers and sinners" Jesus was approving of their activities. But we know this is not that case. Even after rescuing the woman caught in adultery from stoning, Jesus' last recorded words to her are to "sin no more."

We confound love and approval in two different ways. Today, as the culture has shifted, Christians have tried to convince people that disapproving of certain lifestyles does not imply that we do not love the people who are participating in those lifestyles. But we have met opposition saying that such a thing is not possible.

If we reflect on this though, we shouldn't be surprised it is not accepted because for many years we have taught the same thing from the other side. Sure, we didn't use the word love, but we taught separation. When Christianity was the majority, we were comfortable with shunning certain people so that no one would think we approved of their sin. So our arguments now that we can love these people but not accept them rings hollow.

Jesus' approach was different. He associated with and loved anyone who would come to Him. This included the Pharisees. Why then did he so frequently condemn them? Because they should have known better. They had the Scriptures and had studied them.

What does all this mean practically? I don't know how we apply it in every situation, but if we follow Jesus example, then don't we need to be willing to risk our reputation? Don't we need to be willing to love and care for those around us, regardless of whether or not we approve of their lifestyles?

Don't take this the wrong way. Sin is sin and as believers we cannot call evil good. The question is what do we lead with when we deal with others. Until we are leading with love I don't think we can  expect others to believe that we care about them. Perhaps we should worry less that some people might think we were approving of sin and should worry more about displaying the fruit of the spirit.

Just a thought.

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