I’ve had love on my mind a lot lately.
Not necessarily love in the romantic sense – though not necessarily not that kind – but more so love in general, and the various ways in which our culture has redefined the word so as to make it mean something contrary to what the Bible means when it says “love.” So many different cultures have various different words to express this emotion – and I listed a few of them in my previous post on the topic – but sadly the English language has but one word, and the majority of the time we fail to use that word that word correctly.
Last time, I addressed how in a romantic sense, often when we say “love” we mean “lust,” and our ideas of what it means to love are so misconstrued thanks to what culture has told us that it will take leaps and bounds to regain that biblical ahava love which has been so lost and twisted over time. This is what I called the "Love-Lust-Lost Syndrome."
Today, I speak to you about a different type of love – not necessarily romantic yet not necessarily not – a type of love that has equally been just as misconstrued by our culture, especially thanks to the “politically correct,” “Treat yoself” culture we live in today.
Today, I talk to you about silence.
Without wasting any time beating around the bush, let me state my main point, which I will then go on to more clearly define: LOVE IS NOT SILENT, MY FRIENDS. I’ve made it clear in the past that I despise passivity – and God does too – so this is another thing that has been landing heavily on my heart, because passivity in the realm of love, whether platonic or romantic, comes in the form of silence. Complacency. I’ve tried to find the words for quite some time, but it was only after an early-morning discussion with my roommate that I finally felt that I could make sense of my thoughts in a readable, understandable way. (So shout out to Matt for major help on this blog. Gotta give credit where credit is due.)
One of the biggest problems within the Church, I believe – and I must include myself amongst this lot, for I fall prey to the same issue all too often – is that we are afraid to address the “tough topics” in front of large crowds. We worry more about the number of people in our pews than we do about the number of lives being changed – the number of lives being saved – and that truly is an issue that has been bugging me for quite some time. We make the excuse of “If I reach more people, I am more likely to make a difference,” but that is simply not true! Look at Jesus, for instance: In John 6, we read the miracle of Jesus feeding 5,000 men (with women and children added to the lot, it could have been up to 20,000 people.) This is Jesus at his A-game, casually preaching to 20,000 people like it’s no big deal! And after he provides food for them, he goes away from them because he knows they will forcibly try to make him king.
He isn’t in it to become popular; he’s in it to make a change.
When the people find Jesus the next day, they ask him where he went, and he clarifies something: “You are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill” (6:26). He recognized that they did not come to him for his teachings but because he had given them what they wanted, and he makes it evidently clear that that is not what it takes to be a disciple. He tells them that being a disciple is not an easy task, and that they will be asked to do things they might not want to do. As a result, a good majority of these “disciples” leave him, at which point he turns to those who remain and says, “You do not want to leave to, do you?” (v.67) Jesus didn’t care about the number that came flocking to him; he cared about their intentions. In the words of Robert Coleman, “the surprising thing is that Jesus did not go running after them to try to get them to stay on his membership roll. He was training leaders for the Kingdom, and if they were going to be fit vessels of service, they were going to have to pay the price.”
Why do we not apply this in our churches? And if you think yourself exempt because you are not a church elder, let me stop you there: this applies to our relationships too. We say that we love people, yet we are so afraid to call them out on certain things – the “touchy subjects,” as I said before – that I’m pretty sure most “loving” relationships are based on some sort of counterfeit love, a love that totally ignores the love preached in the Bible. It is like a father who never stops to punish his son even when his son is obviously doing bad things. That’s not love.
My friends, silence is closer to hatred than it is to love.
Do you see what I’m getting at here? I’m talking about those people caught in sin, those people we claim to love and yet are afraid to approach about the subject. The church is great when it comes to preaching about humility and happiness and what we have come to know as the “Prosperity Gospel,” and while those things are all good and well, that’s like reading the New Testament without ever taking a glance at the Old. We’re so busy preaching the kindness and goodness of Jesus that we fail to point out the brokenness in ourselves. And how are people supposed to turn to Jesus if they don’t realize how broken they truly are? We shouldn’t be so legalistic in our approach to sin, because the bigger your view of sin is, the bigger your view of salvation. If you only look to the Ten Commandments as your guide, then surely you don’t need Jesus that much. If you only look to the Law, then maybe you need him a little more. But it’s when Jesus comes in and says, “Anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt 5:28) that the story really lands at home; we need Jesus even more than we need water.
We don’t just sin every now and then; any time we are doing something outside of God’s will, that is a sin, and true love calls us out on that sin! So while yes, preaching grace and kindness and happiness is a great, great thing, but those are only small aspects of what it means to love. You’re only showing people half the story. Let me break it down for you a little more.
True love is not afraid to cause people temporary pain if it points towards their eternal betterment. Did you see what I said there? “True love is not afraid to cause people temporary pain…” Have you ever thought of that? In our modern day and age, we worry so much about people’s feelings that we have stopped loving them! Think of issues like pornography, homosexuality, abortion, or drunkenness – all things that are clearly sinful according to biblical doctrine, yet we so rarely speak up against them. We have been so afraid of hurting people’s feelings that we have tried to redefine what the Bible says about the issues so that we don’t feel bad for being passive about the situation. Deep down we know that we should approach them and call them out, but instead we take that incentive to action and turn it into us trying to justify sin. It’s a sad, sad thing. Culture has perverted our sense of love so that even Christians doubt what is blatantly said in the Bible.
Second, I want to say this: Calling someone out on a sin does not equate to judging them. How many times have I called somebody out on something only for them to turn to me and say, “Whoa man, stop judging me!” That is such a misconstrued statement. Think of it like this: If I saw a man murder someone and said, “Hey, you just murdered somebody, and that’s kind of a problem,” would he have any justifiable reason to label me as judging him? No, I am merely stating a fact, and the judge himself gets to define whether he is innocent or guilty. The same goes for a thief, a liar, or an prideful man. Whether it’s a “bigger” sin or a “smaller” sin – the differentiation doesn’t really make much sense, in all honesty – the truth is this: According to God Himself, we are all guilty. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). All because you call somebody out on a sin doesn’t mean you are judging them; you are merely warning them that they are currently going about something that might not go very well in the courtroom. Judgment comes when you begin to treat people differently because of their sin.
Thirdly, all because you aren’t judging them doesn’t mean they won’t get defensive. I can speak from experience here: Plenty of times I have had close friends of mine call me out on my sin, and I have been so quick to defend what I was doing and try to make myself the exception that God didn’t account for. But how grateful am I that they persisted in their admonishment of me, reminding me of God’s Truth and how it applied to everybody, and how I was no exception to this! Even the villain in a story sees himself as the good guy, so of course we will try to defend our sins and often feel that people are judging us, even if they aren’t. But notice what Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:15: “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” The only way for us to grow more mature in our faith is to be spoken the truth in love. Try your very best to ensure that the person doesn’t feel judged, but also know that silence is not an option. If you see your friend stumbling in sin and you are simply sitting there quietly, then I would begin to question whether or not you truly love them at all.
Fourthly – and this is the last of my main points – love is not telling somebody that everything’s good. I’m probably the most optimistic person in the world, but when it comes to loving somebody as Christ loves us, you have to hold back some of the happy parts for a little while so that they can realize their desperate need for God’s grace. Calling Jesus “Savior” is not good enough to get you into heaven; you must call him “Lord.” As Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and mammon (the things of this world).” If somebody comes to you seeking advice about something that they don’t recognize as sin, your job is not to sit there and give them advice on how to best handle that sin, nor is it to sit there and silently continue going about it: Your job is to speak up and tell them to get out of that sin as quick as possible! For there is no “best way” to handle sin other than to turn in the opposite direction and sprint towards God. Holding back your silence and reminding them of God’s love does nothing if they don’t recognize their need for that love. Yes, God is a Lover. Yes, He is benevolent. Yes, He loves you more than anyone else could. But when a person is stumbling in sin, they need to recognize God the Judge, God the Father, the God that despises sin and begs you to turn away. You can’t serve both God and the world; you cannot serve God while living in your sin and ignoring the fact that it’s sin.
And you cannot love someone unless you are pointing them back towards serving God.
Before I close, let me present my argument deductively:
- If you love someone, you are to point them back towards God.
- If someone is living in sin, they are serving themselves rather than God.
- If the person does not know the truth, they cannot leave their sin.
- If you who knows the truth does not speak the truth to them, then you are in no way pointing them back towards God, even if you mention God elsewhere.
- Thus, if you are silent, you are not loving someone.
And that’s basically what I’m trying to get across. I think this is so important to me because I myself have been blessed to have friends to help me realign myself, and this is a truth I am trying to nail into my head as I become more aware of how prevalent sin is in this world that surrounds us. I will stop rambling on so as to spare as much of your time as possible, but I will end by saying this: If you see a friend stumbling in sin, “loving” them is not reminding them all the good things they are doing or reminding them of how much Jesus loves them (without mentioning how much he hates sin). If you are truly loving the person, you will want what is best for them and will call them out on that which prevents them from being their very best.
NOW LET’S BE HONEST…they might get offended, they might get hurt, and it might hurt your relationship. But if hurting your relationship with them provides you with even the slightest chance at bettering their relationship with God, isn’t it worth the risk?