Years ago there was a popular Christian song that stated, “We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord,… and they’ll know we are Christians by our love.” It was heart-warming and was sung by youth groups all around to promote unity and love among us all. I imagine many of you sang it at some time.
We live in a very fragmented state here in the US. Differences in opinions over political issues, social issues, health issues, and a hundred other things have led us down a path of separation, antagonism, division, and claims of intolerance and hatred. Are we still Christians who are known by our love, or are we people who are known by our fear, judgment, and condemnation?
We seem to have forgotten that we can have different theological and political views and still love people. Biblical values must be upheld if we call ourselves Christians. The way we hold up our beliefs is what we are considering today. If we aren’t careful, we tend to hold up some sins as horrible. We judge and condemn people who do “those sins.” While at the same time we overlook or take lightly sins that don’t seem so horrendous to us. Sin is sin. God condemns all sin, and He expects us to flee sin, to avoid every appearance of evil, whether it is big or little, murder or lying, robbery or harsh words.
As we Christians operate in society, it is good for us to follow God and declare sinful behaviors wrong. I would not be following Christ if I didn’t. But affirming that homosexuality, abortion, politically correct tolerance, etc., are wrong, does not require me to be hateful or condescending toward the people who believe the opposite of me on these issues. In fact, the love of God compels me to treat these people honorably, with love and gentleness.
At the same time that we stand up against the sin of abortion, do we equally stand up against sins that have broken families down and created environments where people turn to sex outside marriage and end up in a position to desire an abortion? When we boldly condemn homosexuality, do we just as boldly condemn pre-marital sex and adultery? Or are we less verbal in condemning those sins we find tolerable? When we verbalize our opinions on masks or vaccines, do we do so in a way that allows others to hold their own opinions without feeling that we consider them an enemy? When we (rightly) confront our child’s teacher over inappropriate or ungodly material being used in the classroom do we dialog with them with kindness and respect or do we come in like gangbusters demanding and threatening?
I’m reading a wonderful little book by Josh and Sean McDowell called The Beauty of Intolerance: Setting a Generation Free to Know Truth & Love. It has pushed me to examine how I handle issues that go against scripture, and how I treat people who believe differently than I do. In one chapter Sean talks about going to a Christian conference on homosexuality and how he stood firm on God’s Word, yet expressed his theological beliefs to them in loving, acceptable ways.
We need to learn to do that, to express our beliefs based on God’s Word in a way that does not tear down and cause arguing, anger, and hatred. Are we willing to get into discussions and respectful, straight-forward dialog without throwing insults, slurs or jabs? It will be challenging. Are we willing to discuss hard issues without anger and judgment. It will take us out of our comfort zone. It will require us to develop relationships with people very different than we are. But it will open up a door to show God’s love and stand firm in His principles, and will take us as Christians from being seen as judgmental, haters to being respected as people who stand firm but love others unconditionally. It’s a challenge I want to embrace. Will you join me? Let’s let the world know that we are Christians by our love.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”John13:34-35