The Idol of Love

Mom and Dad are great parents. It is not Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, but events of the past week have set me to thinking about parents, love, and friendship.

One virtue they had: my brother and I knew they would always love us.

So long as they had anything, we would have something.

They were open to talk, even to disagree. They dialogued about everything and let us read almost anything.

As I got older, I made choices that were very wrong and they believed to be very wrong. My parents never stopped loving me, but they did withhold their approval. In one sense, they withdrew their friendship, because my sins were big enough that they feared more for my soul than my body.

 Of course, even when I was walking down a dark road, their door was open. They refused to sit in the pig sty with me sipping coffee and pretending I was “alright,” but if I came to my senses I knew they would see me (as the Father saw the prodigal in the parable) a long way off and welcome me home joyfully.

 In fact, they did welcome me home joyfully.

 Saint Paul makes it clear that we can have business relationships with non-Christians. We are called to love everyone, even our enemies. At the same time, the Lord Jesus talks of damnation for those who do not enter the narrow way.

Today, because Jesus is still the second most popular historic figure in America (next to Abraham Lincoln), it has become fashionable to talk of his eating and talking with sinners. This is true and never to be forgotten, but he also never stopped calling them sinners and urging them to repent of their sin.

Like Jesus, I remember my Mom and Dad taking some pretty tough people into our house and their trying to help them. Sometimes this worked out, sometimes it did not. There was no limit to their love, but there was a limit to their toleration. If someone was not walking toward the light, they knew they could have no further fellowship with darkness. 

It is Sacred Scripture after all that tells us we cannot befriend the world system. That means that however kind we are called to be, there is a limit to the approval and support we can give.

My parents, I am confident, would never have stopped loving me, but if I had gone off the rails, they would never have given me approval. Of course, if my behavior was not sinful, if they were wrong about their judgment, then they would hurt themselves and me needlessly.

They had enough humility to agonize over whether they were wrong, but enough courage in their convictions to act on them. When they decided on righteousness, they used the standards of Scripture, the witness of the saints gone before them, and reason.

They were never so arrogant as to assume their own age had a corner on righteousness. They taught me to oppose racism and the racist laws of the 1960’s, because they were aberrant stains on Church history, contrary to Scripture (where is race there?), and contrary to their reason.

If I had become a racist and encouraged others to do the same, they would have distanced themselves from me. If I had embraced any sin and built my life around it, they would have loved me, but disapproved until death.

On politics or social choices, what is prudent in this time, they would have agreed to disagree. They would have tolerated much that less holy parents would have despised, but if I chose moral evil, they would have separated from me.

They loved me, but loved God and His righteousness more.

My mother wept over me in prayer, but she was not so weak as to pretend agreement or give me approval by her presence in my sinful choices. They thought, and I think they were right, that the real arrogance was in me for thinking my generation had insight that had escaped the Church Universal.

At first this annoyed me, but during my time of walking away from their values, I came to realize that if I was right and they were wrong, that their disapproval was a cost of my decisions. Parental approval would be valueless, if it came regardless of what I did.

Dialog is good, there is nothing I will not discuss or consider, but dialog must never be an excuse to pretend that one does not have a (fairly) settled view. There comes a time when dialog with sinners (or if I am the sinner, with me), becomes unproductive.

The Bible calls this state “hardness of heart” in one case and “folly” in another. 

The slogan “let’s keep talking,” can be an excuse (at least in me) to avoid recognizing that embracing sin creates irreconcilable differences without repentance (on somebody’s part).

I knew they would always love me, but not that they would always support me. If the wages of sinful choices was death, they would mourn my passing.

My parents would say, if they were allowed to look over my shoulder just now, that they know everyone, including themselves is a sinner. The problem with the Pharisees of Jesus time was not their doctrine, Jesus was a Pharisee himself by belief. The problem is that they pretended they were not sinners or escaped the harder demands of Justice by sophistry.

These Pharisees did not feed their parents, they oppressed the poor, they had impure hearts.

They were worse sinners than the people everyone knew were sinners, because they would not call their sin “sinful.”

But notice what Jesus did and did not do: our Savior had harsh language for anyone who used sophistry to escape the demands of holiness. Thieving for God was still stealing and so he cleared the Temple. What Jesus never did was tell the woman caught in adultery, the tax collector, or the prodigal that they had made lifestyle choices or that their problem was society’s perception.

Jesus was willing to go anywhere and risk anything to call men and women to repentance.

A Christian must follow His model. No sinner can be intimate with God. The only way any of us can stand before God is by putting on Christ.

Can a man or woman in Christ be “best friends” with an unbeliever? I cannot see how. If the most important thing in my life is Jesus, then our level of intimacy will be curtailed. I think this is why Scripture urges believers to marry only other believers.

We cannot join “Christ in us” to someone who does not know Christ.

And yet over shared interests, I see no reason good fellowship and collegial relationships cannot be had with those not in Christ. Love demands we be as intimate as we can be without giving the appearance of condoning injustice or vice.

But at times a person will so associate themselves with their vice that I do not see in good conscience how loving my neighbor, all my neighbors, could include tacit approval of their life by hearty fellowship. One way business leaders keep running sweatshops in other lands is they pay no social cost in this land.

They get the benefit of our friendship here and the profit from exploiting labor there.

My parents taught me to love all my children. I can think of no deeper love. I would, I hope, die for my children, but because I love them I will never live for them.

Recently an episode of Psych featured a “moving in together” party for the main characters. Everyone was there celebrating this increase in “love.” I realized with sorrow that if my own children had such a party, I would not be able to go. It would not be that they were my enemies or that I would have ceased to love them. If such a child made any move to repent, then I would rush to help them.

That was a sorrowful thought.

It is not, of course, the severity of the sin that merits such a painful response: a crucifying of parental love in the name of holiness. I am confident that every heart, my heart, contains worse sins than living together before marriage, fornication.

The difference is embracing sin, promoting it, calling it no sin.

Love cannot see the beloved embrace destruction and death of the soul and join the party.

I suppose, like Jesus, I could go to the sick and call them to be well or to the sinners and winsomely call them to repentance. But if I were not invited as a physician of souls, as Jesus was, or as a rabbi, then going seems merely rude.

Jesus never went to a celebration of sin and called it “not sin.” He never took a sinner and told them that their sin was not sin, but a result of oppression or “othering.”

Jesus called every sinner to repentance: especially religious types such as I am.

And some sinners, Romans, Zealots, Pharisees, and Sadducees, hated him for it. Other sinners left their sinful activity and he accepted them just as they were to make them something different.

So when I read friends say that nothing I could do or believe would separate us, I think this is no longer friendship, but idolatry.

I must hate every relationship, parent, child, country, in light of the love of God and God demands perfect holiness. My way forward is not to feel better about myself, but worse. I am a sinner needing salvation. My path to joy is not to embrace my desires, but to crucify them.

In practical life, this means having as deep a relationship as I can with anyone, but not with any action. And of course (Psalm 139:21), if a man or woman rejects God, then (as Jesus said) I must hate that rejection. There is an unpardonable sin: the sin of becoming unable to ask for pardon.

Oddly, no matter how this is said, whatever is tried, “speaking the truth in love” seems no longer possible to many. “I love you, but I think you are in error, damnable error.” may be true, but I am not sure we have any ability to hear it. We think “judge not” means never judging, so we judge God’s judgments on us as evil.

When our friend says, “Hurrah for my sin!” then silence smacks of cowardice or idolatry. Love and truth can’t be separated, so out of our grievous pain for their error, don’t we have to say something?

For a long time, I was tempted by this dodge: “I will give my view once and let people know when I change my mind.” This may be socially more polite, and certainly would be better for my career, but too often is cowardice.

When the topic is sin, then I must speak, as kindly as possible, with offers for acceptance for any sinner who repents, but I dare not be silent or risk empowering injustice and evil with silence.

Silence about sin equals death for the beloved.

I have known people, God knows I have surely been such a person, who use speaking the truth as an excuse not to love. They are the parent who punishes saying: “this punishment hurts you more than me” in a mockable way. They do not mind the punishment at all.

That is a grievous sin.

But isn’t there as great a sin in refusing to acknowledge (at least for a moment) that best judgment says a fellow believer has embraced wickedness? Paul, John, Jesus, and all the prophets do not say to keep every relationship going. The Biblical doctrine of separation from the world has been abused enough, that many of us refuse all but a hypothetical case.

Can’t a person even excommunicate himself? Or is our love so cloying that we will not respect a person has chosen a different god, even if he or she uses the same name?

If it is possible,when?

Christians must allow humans the liberty to choose a new God and a new Christ. My God and my Christ command holiness, justice, and righteousness. As Paul points out, the deeds of righteousness are pretty plain as are (from his perspective) evil deeds. If someone decides that parts of Christianity are good enough that they keep them, but deny ethical ideas universally held by the Church, then they are in a new “Christian” faith.

This new faith may be better, but it is not the old. If history is any guide, it is likely worse and will fade in time.

On sexual ethics the Church has spoken with a unified voice. Jesus does not give us a detailed sexual ethic, but in every case the Savior “ups the demands” of the Pharisees, He does not lower them.

The Pharisees placated their own desire to sin by allowing divorce. Jesus said: “in the beginning it was not so.”

The Pharisees ignored their lusts as long as they “did not do it” or at least get caught. Jesus said lust in our hearts was (for us) sex sin.

The great saints of the Church, Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant, often get individual ethical decisions wrong, but they are unified on this: sex is not sinful in itself, but most of our sexual desires need radical purification.

On sex, just like any other desire, we cannot trust ourselves.

Perhaps the great hypocrisy of the American Church in the last twenty years has been ignoring some vices and “not asking” while focusing on vices done by smaller groups of people. We knew that a couple was “living in sin,” but we rushed to celebrate their Christian marriage without first calling them to repentance. There should have been no party without repentance, but because their vice was close enough to our own and all “ended well” we ignored it.

We ignore divorce: God hates divorce.

Perhaps I have been too eager to justify the sin of my friend when he divorces, because he is my friend. Until he repents of his wrong, shouldn’t we be at least a bit estranged? Will not repentance come with fruit (like paying child support)?

We are so eager to say that God does not hate the divorcee that we forget that God does hate the divorcee if the divorcee loves his sin. (I certainly know divorce happens to some people without their consent.)

I know that I have sometimes said: “But I am the last traditional Christian, my friend trusts or can befriend! It gives me a chance to soften his or her heart.”

This is true and someone might be called to do it, but only if they never allow themselves to appear to condone or celebrate sin. This is so hard that I am not sure any but a great saint could manage it while being perfectly loving.

In my own experience, either my values ended up being compromised or I gave others the appearance of evil. This most often comes when I agree as much as possible with a person, but am silent about the disagreement.

“Loving the sinner and hating the sin” is no longer good enough for the American majority. Christians must love the sinner who loves their sin and join in any celebration of their sin. This may be something, but is not the love described in Scriptures.

Of course, the “loving the sinner and hating the sin” formulation was always too vague. Jesus hated sinners as sinners, but he saw sinfulness was not all there was to any of us. We were created in the image of God and though sinners, could become something else if we allowed God to change us.

Mom and Dad loved me, but hated the sin and the sinner. They believed there was more to me than my status as sinner.  Jesus came for sinners, but so they could stop being sinners. He loves us as we are only so we can become something new.

God’s acceptance of us, any of us, into Paradise is contingent on our changing.

I come to God just as I am, He accepts me not as I am, but as Christ will make me. The sinner in me will be purged as if by fire . . . I am must kill my old self or I cannot be raised with Christ.

Priests or pastors may have different jobs to do, but for the rest of us, we must respect other people’s decisions enough to recognize that if we worship the true Christ, they have come to worship a false one.

Humility in part means refusing to set up our own standards for fellowship and becoming nicer than God. There will be no sinners, after all, in heaven. If we don’t hate our sin, we go to Hell.

Everyone in God’s Heaven, if you follow the Christian God, will be a sinner who has rejected, whoever imperfectly their sin, and found a new life in Christ. Few will die sinless, but nobody who loves sin and continues in it knows God (I John).

My parents demonstrate this much better than I, but I am learning. They too were not always holy in their loving, they would compromise in the name of love, or be tempted by hate, but they did better every year. If there is always the temptation to temper relationships over too little, perhaps the greater temptation is to never disagree at all.

Disagree agreeably if you can, but not at all costs.

Mom and Dad knew this: love for any human, object, or group is limited by the greater love for a Holy God.

Pick the wrong God and great horror will result, but that is true of any of us, even if we believe in no god but humankind or community.

“Love God and do whatever you wish,” but make sure that you love the God who is Love and Holy.

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty: not so holy am I. Even when I have tried to live by this standard, I have failed. I have been unkind over too little and kind when separation was needed. My “boundaries” have been my own and not a Holy God’s.

Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.

  • Susan_G1

    “but if I chose moral evil, they would have separated from me.”

    You have lovely parents, and I’m glad for you. But I grieve at the above. Being a parent myself, and a Christian, I would never do the above. If my child chose to express his disordered nature by shooting schoolchildren, I would never condone his behavior, but I would visit him in prison. It would be harder than turning my back, but my child is a child of God as well.

    There is a difference between naming a sin and affirming it, but love is the greatest commandment of all.

    Jesus ate with, not separated himself from, prostitutes and tax collectors. His love and His words changed them. Yes, there are times when the disciples were told to brush the dust off and move on. But never just move on ‘cuz there’s sin in there.

    Jesus tells us to visit those in prisons. I believe He knew there were terrible sinners in prison. He didn’t say, avoid the sinners, visit the righteous.

    We are to judge, but we are to do so carefully, and we are never, never to condemn to hell. “…anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the
    court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of
    hell.”

    I cannot agree with you. If my child was having a moving in party, I would long ago have asked that child if he were sexually active, why, what his plans were, and would have let him know that I believed it was a sin. I might not go to the party, but I would never separate from my child, not for adultery, not for fornication, not for lying, murder, or breaking the Sabbath. Not for gossiping, divorce, or taking oaths. If I had to separate from every serious sinner, I would need to live on an island alone.

  • John Mark N. Reynolds

    Susan… I think you missed my point. I certainly would go visit my son or daughter in prison or in the hospital. They will always be my son or daughter. But if they choose to rejoice in their evil, then I won’t go to the party or the celebration. I would also remind you that love of God takes precedence over any other love… And if we are not careful than love For children will become an idol. Check out the character of the mother In CS Lewis excellent book “the great divorce.”

  • Rachel Thompson

    Sometimes you click on an article randomly and are then reminded that, in this world where everything is coordinated by Christ, nothing is random. Thanks for writing this, Dr. Reynolds. This was a good reminder to me as someone who finds it so much easier to look over the spiritually unhealthy choices my friends make and just ‘love’ them.

    I wish there was a step to step guide on how to do this when you have good friends who are gay. I find it hard, because I value these friends and love them so much, but I am often afraid that they will no longer want to be my friends if I tell them that lifestyle they choose is not good for their souls. I am so terrified of coming across as just another hateful, condemnatory Christian when I want so badly to show them the comforting love of Jesus Christ. Got any advice for me?

    Also, I want you to know that I remember a lot of the things that you said to us and me at Biola. I still think about phrases like ‘People are more important than ideas’. I miss you and your wonderful mother and father! God bless you and your family.

    • Esther O’Reilly

      Rachel, I would say that it may partly depend on whether your friends claim to be Christians or not. If they want to claim the name of Jesus and be accepted into the Church, then somebody (possibly you, possibly someone else) needs to tell them “No” and point them back to the truth of Scripture. However, if these friends are not even Christians, then it’s hard to know what to say. Witnessing to unsaved friends is of course always a challenge, but naturally this complicates things all the more! I do think sexual deviance is one of those things that should be apparently wrong by the natural light, but very, very few non-religious people are going to recognize that.

      I will say that your desire to warn your friends is not hateful at all, and in fact it’s a sign of just how much you really care about them. If you didn’t care about them, you wouldn’t have that desire at all. What you need to keep in mind is that when it comes to having friends and being liked, especially on this issue, being a good Christian witness can sometimes be a lose-lose thing. You could approach your friends as lovingly and concernedly as possible, and they might still walk away offended. But if they value their own pride over your friendship, then that’s not your fault. Sooner or later, if they accept the gospel at all, they’ll have to swallow the reality that God demands a changed life. Now I’m not saying that you personally have to present the gospel to them if they’re not Christians, but if you just leave things the way they are, they probably won’t just become Christians by osmosis, as it were. I mean you could hope and pray that that would happen, but what’s more likely to happen is that they’ll simply carry on being non-Christians while you carry on being a Christian.

      One thing you could try is simply starting small conversations about religion and Christianity, but without diving directly into the homosexuality issue. Of course, they might bring it up, but you can say “Right now I just want to focus on [the need for a savior, the resurrection, etc.]” If they trust and respect you, hopefully they won’t simply shut the conversation down. If they become interested, you can slowly start to bring in the holiness of God, what it means to be a Christian, etc.

      I hope this is at least somewhat useful. Just remember that if your heart is right with God, you don’t have to fear what your friends may think of you.

    • Rebecca Trotter

      Let God handle sin. Your job is to love. If they experience you as love, they will start to recognize the source of the love in you as a valuable thing which might be worth seeking themselves. Their path is between them and God, not them, God and you unless you have been given a very specific message through an angelic visit or vision to share with them. Too many Christians presume that we are all called to be prophets but a prophet is a specific role with a specific call, and a specific message, usually delivered through angelic messengers. Barring receiving a call to be a prophet, our job is to love and allow God to do his own work in other people’s lives. This urge to tell people about what is or isn’t good for their soul betrays many Christian’s lack of trust that God is capable of bringing each of his children to redemption without our input – as if God needs our help with anything!

      Homosexuality is a particularly difficult thing which frankly we humans don’t yet have the wisdom to deal with well. In the past we reviled, shunned and even killed homosexuals. Clearly, this violates our call to love others and it is right that we repent of it. A thief can stop thieving, but a homosexual person can no more stop being homosexual than they can stop breathing. So people who are homosexual cannot help but feel that they are being personally attacked, demonized and vilified when they are told that homosexuality is sinful or not good for them. I do believe that God’s relationship with his people is manifest through the covenant bond between a man and a woman in a way it isn’t when it happens between two people of the same sex (same sex relationships lacking the coming together of two different types which typifies both male-female and God-human relationships). But like all things involving marriage, the church, the trinity and such – as Paul says in scriptures, there is a great deal of mystery involved. I think that we have to accept that how to deal with and view homosexuals is a mystery to us. Certainly some of the specific practices condemned in scripture involved not simple same sex attraction, but the use of power in sexual relationships, the abuse of boys and the abandonment of one’s own natural sexual attraction for another. As such, if we see those things happening, we ought to speak up and then continue to love the best we can. But I think that given the mystery and the lack of understanding we have over how best to approach people who are homosexual, the best thing is to simply accept them, trust them to God and love them

      • Esther O’Reilly

        This is not wise advice. Rachel has better instincts than you do. The Bible is indeed clear that ALL forms of homoeroticism are sinful, not just pedophilia. Questioning this is simply revisionist claptrap. There is no “mystery” regarding the sinfulness of homosexual behavior. Moreover, while it’s true that many homosexuals are unable to change their same-sex attraction, others have gone on to live happy, fulfilled heterosexual lives. It’s no less misleading to say that no homosexual can ever experience a happy heterosexual life than to say that all homosexuals can do so if they go through the right steps.

        One can’t judge the accuracy of a statement by how many people get offended by it. If a homosexual “feels demonized or vilified” because a close friend shares from his heart that homosexual behavior is a destructive lifestyle, that’s a sign that the homosexual is prideful and self-centered, just as it would be if an alcoholic had friends advising him to abandon the alcoholic lifestyle.

        To “accept” homosexual behavior is to implicitly condone that sin. Condoning sin is wrong across the board, and this is no exception.

  • Rebecca Trotter

    I’ve never understood the idea that unless you are actively disapproving of another’s sin, you are tactically approving or enabling it. I agree that if it’s a matter of celebrating sin such as a moving in party, I wouldn’t either. But to assume that we are responsible for bringing another to repentance assumes to much.

    I had a good friend in a very bad marriage who began an affair. When she first told me, I talked with her about seeking reconciliation in her marriage and the folly of an affair. She was not receptive and I let it go. I never asked about the affair but she often talked about it with me. She knew that I didn’t approve but also didn’t hold it against her or judge. I was a safe person. In time she did come to regret the affair, even telling me that my initial warning had been correct. And she thanked me for just walking with her. Other people had judged her and broken their relationships with her while paradoxically hardening her heart against the idea that she should repent.

    There are things my husband does which I don’t approve – even to the point of having a negative effect on our marriage. Nagging, disapproval and rejection don’t change his behavior. Ultimately he is responsible for his own behavior. My job is to love him. I can pray over him, refuse to actively enable his poor choices or rescue him from the consequences of his behavior. But unless my children or I were unsafe, I would not withdraw from my relationship with him. I will continue to affirm those things about him which are good.

    It is ENTIRELY possible to be in relationship with someone without approving of their sin. In fact, I would say that is what God does for us and to the extent we are able to do it, we are loving as God does.

  • Jill Dembroff

    It’s always a good idea to speak to the one you are going to shun so that you have the opportunity to know where they stand and whether they are actually guilty of the crime you believe they have committed. Maybe you are jumping to conclusions based on what another person has said about the people you are choosing to shun. In that case, you either owe them an apology or you need to make an effort to learn the truth – and then apologize. To shun people who are innocent of what you believe to be true is to cause them a great deal of pain and confusion and is unworthy of a man who calls himself a follower of Jesus.

    And Jesus, who knew what was in every heart, kept Judas around for 3 years.

    • Rebecca Trotter

      Shunning is an EVIL practice. We do not have the mind of God as of yet, and as such are not allowed to make judgments about other people. “Man judges by outward appearances, but only God knows the heart.” There is no excuse for removing yourself from relationship with another person because you disapprove of them or what they are doing. Anyone who practices or teaches this is living entirely contrary to God’s will and spirit. “While we were still sinners . . . ” God loved us enough to die for us. God doesn’t shun us when we sin and the fact that we would even contemplate shunning someone else for their sin simply shows how terribly and tragically far from God’s mind and will some Christians have put themselves. Awful. Just horrifically awful.

      • Jill Dembroff

        You have no idea what you’re talking about here, Rebecca. Mine is a personal situation with Dr. Reynolds. We were shunned by him. Again, best to speak to the one you are going to condemn before condemning them.

        • Rebecca Trotter

          You are right. I know nothing of your personal situation nor of Dr. Reynolds relationship with you. I apologize if it felt like I was attacking or condemning you. It is the act of shunning which draws my ire. I’m sorry if that it felt personal to you. If Dr. Reynolds has engaged in this behavior, then I too would call him to repent of such ungodly behavior. I am so sorry for the hurt you have been experiencing at the hands of the church.

          Shunning devalues human beings – often whole families of beloved human beings – which is what makes it so painful for those who are on the receiving end of it, I think. When a person believes that they are innocent of the sin for which they are being shunned, that is like pouring salt and vinegar in an already gaping wound. As you unfortunately know, it’s just a terrible, terrible thing to do to another beloved of God.

          I really am so, so sorry that you have experienced this. I pray that God will bring you healing and open your eyes to his inexhaustible stores of love which he will never withdraw from you. I pray that he will in his loving goodness lead you and your family for healing into the arms of those who know his unconditional love and will receive you with the full grace which has been shown to all of by Love.

          • Jill Dembroff

            Thank you, Rebecca. Indeed, I know where Love comes from and have known Him for many years. We are lost and confused sheep, trying to do the right thing, as I suppose Dr. Reynolds thinks he is, but we need to be humble enough to admit when we’ve made a mistake and, even more difficult, seek forgiveness and reconciliation and learn from our errors. If we don’t do that, we might as well hang up our walk with God, or at least recognize that we are on a different path from the one He has called us to follow.

  • Rebecca Trotter

    This post has been bothering the bejeezus out of me ever since I read it. “God is love.” Isn’t that what scripture teaches? Isn’t love how the outside world will recognize us as being Jesus followers? Isn’t our love and demonstration of the love God has for us? If we do not love our brother who we can see, how can we love God who we have not seen? Aren’t those all biblical teachings? Doesn’t calling love an “idol” betray a fundamental misunderstanding of God and our faith?

    If God is love, then how can love be an idol? Isn’t love exactly what we should be absolutely, utterly, totally and completely devoted to above anything else? Because God IS love? To say that we should be devoted to something other than love is to say that we should be devoted to something other than God – our human ideas about God or our devotion to the rule of law (sin) or some other human religious construct? What is greater than love? Scripture says nothing. It says that it endures all things and never fails. It is the greatest. Because God is love. It’s so simple, but we fallen humans want to add asterisks and rules and tame this wild, untameable, uncontrollable thing called love – ie God himself.

    Whenever I find a Christian who paints love as some squishy thing which allows us to avoid hard things (like the easiest of all things – pointing out sin, presumably), I know with absolute certainty that I am listening to someone who hasn’t ever actually tried to love unconditionally. It is the hardest thing a person can ever endeavor to do. It will destroy you and God will be your only hope should you ever try is. Love is not an idol – love is the refiner’s fire, the living God, the destruction of all inequity in the person who practices it, the narrow path that few find. And frankly, part of the reason few find it is because so many “religious” folk are busy warning people off the path of love – a task which, according to scriptures is warning people off the path of God himself.

    • psych46

      ‘God is love’ (1 Jn 4.7, 8, 16) but ‘love is not God’ as you imply. When
      the Lord God revealed Himself to Isaiah in the temple, the angels
      chanted, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy, the whole earth is full of his glory’ (Isa
      6.3) not ‘Love, Love, Love’ ! ‘Be Holy, just as I the Lord am Holy’ (Lev
      11.44-45; 1 Pet 1.15-16). Perhaps it is better to say that God is ‘holy love’.
      Interestingly, the apostle John is said by Irenaeus (ca 125-202) who
      got the information from Polycarp to have left a bathhouse hastily when
      he heard that Cerenthius, a gnostic heretic, had entered its portals. Talk about shunning and this came from the apostle of love!

  • Susan_G1

    This post bothered me a lot as well. We have a bit more information now about the blogger by the light of which we can read his post.

  • psych46

    ‘God is love’ (1 Jn 4.7, 8, 16) but ‘love is not God’ as some imply. When
    the Lord God revealed Himself to Isaiah in the temple, the angels
    chanted, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy, the whole earth is full of his glory’ (Isa
    6.3) not ‘Love, Love, Love’ ! ‘Be Holy, just as I the Lord am Holy’ (Lev
    11.44-45; 1 Pet 1.15-16). Perhaps it is better to say that God is ‘holy love’.
    Interestingly, the apostle John is said by Irenaeus (ca 125-202) who
    got the information from Polycarp to have left a bathhouse hastily when
    he heard that Cerenthius, a gnostic heretic, had entered its portals. Talk about shunning and this came from the apostle of love!


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