In a recent video published on Twitter, New Orleans Saints’ Quarterback, Drew Brees defended his involvement with Focus on the Family, an organization known for anti-LGBTQ views. He was responding to some criticism surrounding a video he produced encouraging Christians to bring their bibles to school. In doing so, Mr. Brees walked into a common pitfall of postmodern Christianity: a misapplication of what it means to biblically love one’s neighbor.
He went on record to say:
“There’s been a lot of negativity spread about me in the LGBTQ community recently based upon an article that someone wrote with a very negative headline that I think led people to believe somehow I was aligned with an organization that was anti-LGBTQ and so on and so forth….I’d like to set the record straight. I live by two very simple Christian fundamentals, and that is love the Lord with all your heart, mind, and soul, and love your neighbor as yourself. I think the first one is very self-explanatory,” he said. “The second one, love your neighbor as yourself, what does that mean to me? That means to love all, respect all, and accept all. So that is actually how I live my life. That is what I try to do with my family, with my teammates, with people in my community, with my friends….Because I know that there are, unfortunately, Christian organizations out there that are involved in that kind of thing and to me that is totally against what being a Christian is all about. Being a Christian is love, it’s forgiveness, it’s respecting all, it’s accepting all.”
While I do appreciate anyone encouraging children to take their bible to school, Mr. Brees has got some serious theological issues here in how he is interpreting and applying the two Great Commandments: love God and love your neighbor. For completeness, here are the verses he was referencing in his quote:
“And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:35-40, ESV).
Mr. Brees interprets the second commandment here to mean we must love, respect, and accept all. But is that what Jesus is saying here? I don’t think it is. This is a common misapplication of this text. While Christians are to be known for love, we are not to do so at making the gospel less offensive. These false projections of Christianity, summed up concisely by Drew Brees, are all too common within evangelical Christianity. If we read it the way Drew Brees has said it, then the bible is incredibly contradictory.
The whole of scripture represents a story about God reconciling man back to Himself due to sin. God is unwilling and unable to accept as we are. We must be washed by the blood of Jesus before we can enter the presence of God. We are sin-soaked creatures, naturally opposed to God’s law. Because God loves us, he would not accept and respect as we were. He instituted and required a changed heart. If He had left as we were, we would all perish. Love does not equal acceptance.
If one’s Christianity is unwilling to address the sin that God surely sees, it is by biblical standards false and unloving. True love speaks the truth all the time. It is this reality that escapes so much of modern Christianity. Without this, Christianity is some warped, self-help mumbo jumbo. We need the teeth of the gospel to shred the sinfulness and idols of our hearts. Scripture is not shy about how wicked nature of hearts and we shouldn’t be either. The gospel confronts our sin and does not stop until we are changed into the likeness of Christ. Therefore, while we should embrace loving our neighbors as a primary principle for life, we cannot rightly do so without the rest of the Law to guide our actions.
The Great Commandments are not meant to stand apart from the rest of scripture. Notice that Jesus says, “On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets”. We have 66 books of the bible for a reason – all of scripture is breathed from God and profitable for our faith. We are not to reduce the bible down to two basic commandments and pretend the rest is now meaningless. Inversely, they’re the sum of the law – that is, the foundation on which the law rests.
I do not think Mr. Brees was intentionally trying to disregard the whole of scripture. I think he was trying to emphasize that these are the principles by which he lives his life. But this contrived notion of love is being used to override how scripture defines, protects, and proclaims love. He is reminding us why theology is critically important. He is not wrong in that Christianity is about love, forgiveness, and respect. But if these positions are held apart from a consideration of the seriousness of sin and holiness of God, a major point is missed.
On one hand, Mr. Brees is encouraging children to take their bibles to school and be bold in their faith, and on the other he won’t acknowledge the sinfulness of the LGBTQ movement when faced with cultural pressures. In doing so, Mr. Brees’ actions (when defined by the whole of scripture) are unloving. He is appropriating his own propositions over those God’s. The stroke of irony is sad and profuse.
If we study Jesus as the standard, there are numerous times that He called men to repent. He was not “accepting” them as they were. He was calling them to something better and pure. Was this unloving? Certainly not. Jesus was the perfect embodiment of love – and even He flipped tables. Jesus was not phased by the opinions of the culture on Him and His message. Almost everything He said brought indignation on Him from the Jews. This was because He was speaking a truth they didn’t want to hear. He fulfilled the two Great Commandments without error, being obedient even to the cross.
I have a lot of respect for Drew Brees. Over the years, I have read numerous accounts of him being open with his faith, time, and finances. From my limited vantage point, he seems like a person who truly wants to improve the lives of those around him. I count him as a brother in Christ. But he buckled here. If we are to bear the name of Christ, we must carry our crosses and be prepared for all kinds of persecution. Having love, truth, kindness, and compassion for a world that seeks to destroy us is a powerful witness. We must be willing to forsake all (including our jobs and persona) for the sake of Him who did not spare his own Son but gave Him up for us all (Romans 8:32). For if we gain the world but lose our soul, what have we profited?