"All you need is love..."
Have you noticed that over the last several years there has been a strong movement in the evangelical church to embrace the notion of love solving all the world's problem (or it least making things easier)? Christ after all is an incredible depiction of love - while on Earth he reached out and showed love to sinners, prostitutes, taxcollectors, slaves, women, and children - everyone who the rest of society labeled as more "challenging" to love. I certainly don't have a problem with loving, after all we are called to love (Romans 13:8, Ephesians 4:2). What I do have a problem with is when Christian love is half-hearted or harmful.
What do I mean? Think about scripture - particularly in Proverbs where wisdom and disciple are repeatedly mentioned, and parents are directed to teach their children right from wrong. Love is clearly a multifaceted characteristic. It involves compassion, caring, generosity, sympathy, etc. but it also requires discipline, guidance, and honesty.
Is the church truly loving when we choose to ignore or minimize an individual's sin? One of the things I have particularly noticed is the increasing movement of many young Christians to push for the right of homosexuals to marry. I have problems with this for 2 primary reasons - (1) homosexuality is clearly laid out in scripture as a sin (1 Corinthians 6:9, Leviticus 18:22, 20:13, Romans 1:24-27), and (2) I don't believe that the church should be involved in any activity that encourages or supports sinful behavior. While we know that non-believers should not be held to the same standards as believers, that does not negate the fact that it is arguably not the churches place to get involved in supportive measures - how is that showing love? It may produce immediate gratification for some, but is that really love? Isn't love acting in the best interests of another, even if it may cause them pain, frustration, or sadness in the moment?
Gay marriage is an easy example given today's society and political movements, but we are all sinners and all fall short by succumbing to our sinful natures. God loves us through our disobedience and I clearly believe that it is our job, as disciples of Christ, to show that love to others - no matter the circumstances. But part of love is tough love - questioning actions, attitudes, and life-style choices that are contrary to God's Word. At no time should we stop loving, but at no time should we be involved in encouraging others to continue in destructive and sinful behavior.
Example from my own life - I don't believe in divorce, nor do I believe it is biblically permissible except in cases of abuse or adultery. However, I know many divorced couples both in and out of the church. While I don't agree with many of their choices or reasoning, I also strive to love them wholeheartedly and refrain from judgment. However, I do not feel it would ever be appropriate for me to use my law degree to facilitate a divorce.
"Hate the sin, Love the sinner" I really am not a fan of this phrase, perhaps because it often seems overused, taken out-of context, or used as a blanket statement, but I think there is certainly truth to the matter. During the past election season I had a conversation with a co-worker about a mutual acquaintance who is a practicing homosexual (I'll call her Sue). Sue had made several proclamations during the months leading up to the election that anyone who really cared about her would vote democratic in the election - because voting republican was voting against gay marriage and against her rights. My co-worker simply couldn't understand how anyone could say they cared about Sue and still vote republican. I disagreed.
At the end of the day we came to the conclusion that it was really a difference of perception. My co-worker could not separate Sue and homosexual marriage - she saw homosexuality as defining who Sue was and any act to not support homosexual marriage was saying that one didn't support Sue. I believe you can separate the two. When I was struggling with anorexia it consumed my life and I truly believed it defined me and that being thin was the source of my happiness and worth. My parents, who love me very much, saw the danger in my anorexic behavior and fought my destructive desires in every way possible - watching my eating like a hawk, taking me to doctors and therapists, documenting my caloric intake, keeping me from exercising, etc. They were clear in reminding me of their love for me, but at the same time they were clear that they were not going to support my anorexic desires (which often made me extremely upset). I take the same perspective when thinking about a situation like Sue's. Although it may be difficult for her to see or understand, I truly do care about her as a person, I simply cannot support or encourage behavior that I believe to be sinful or destructive.
The Beatles sang,"all you need is love" - sure, I'll agree to that, as long as it is complete love that is willing to challenge and stand firm, rather than simply warm-fuzzies.