No sane person takes pleasure in offending others. And no sane person relishes the backlash from people they offend. We want to keep all our relationships amicable, and Scripture enjoins us to do just that whenever we possibly can (Romans 12:18). People, quite reasonably, expect Christians to behave lovingly, displaying gentleness and humility…and they readily point out our hypocrisy when we fail to do so.
To our shame, sometimes their accusations are valid. Sometimes our sinful, obnoxious behavior reflects anything but the fruit of the Spirit, exposing our stubborn determination to revert to our carnal natures (Galatians 5:19-23). In Romans 2:17-24, as a matter of fact, the apostle Paul says point-blank that non-Christians use our hypocrisy as a justification for slandering God’s character. So we absolutely need to behave in ways that demonstrate the Lord’s love.
His love, however, doesn’t always fall in line with the world’s concept of love. In 21st Century America, “love” requires an uncritical endorsement of any lifestyle (except one that favors Christian morality, of course). In particular, “love” rejects Christian ideas concerning sexual conduct, demanding that society approves of any consensual relationship. The post-modern person shakes a fist at anyone who dares to suggest that God intended sex to be enjoyed only within the context of marriage between one man and one woman.
21st Century “love” also insists on subjective worldviews rather than believing in objective and absolute truth. The idea that Jesus is the only way to heaven has no place in post-modern thought. Indeed, all talk of sin, judgment and the wrath of God contradicts the contemporary concept of a “loving” God.
Contrast the world’s definition of “love” with the Bible’s best known description:
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. ~~1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (ESV)
At first glance, this passage seems innocuous enough, but then verse 6 messes it all up by introducing the unwelcome ideas of morality and truth. Both these ideas imply standards that determine morality and truth. And that implication, because it draws on the rest of Scripture to establish and explain these standards, shows a side of love that offends 21st Century understanding.
Christians want, more than anything else, to display all aspects of our wonderful Lord to a world that desperately needs His love. But part of displaying His love requires us to also uphold aspects of truth that the world (including people who falsely profess to be Christians) find offensive. We don’t enjoy offending people, and we hopefully take care not to offend by being hypocritical sinners. Yet love commands that we compassionately tell God’s truth, even when it it hurts.