Harshly Loving

ConflictIt saddens me that an increasing number of people who claim to be Christians look at life from the world’s perspective. Take, for example, the contemporary understanding of love. Many professing evangelicals (particularly those influenced by the Seeker Sensitive and the Emergent Church movements) would elevate a worldly  version of “love” over truth and, in so doing, would minimize the importance of doctrine in favor of a kumbaya sort of spirituality. Yet Scripture very clearly reveals a love that utterly refuses to compromise truth.

About a year and a half ago, reading through Jeremiah, I noticed that the Lord’s attitude toward false prophets appears, at least to our sensibilities, to be enormously unloving. As one example, consider Jeremiah’s final interaction with the false prophet Hananiah.

12 Sometime after the prophet Hananiah had broken the yoke-bars from off the neck of Jeremiah the prophet, the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: 13 “Go, tell Hananiah, ‘Thus says the Lord: You have broken wooden bars, but you have made in their place bars of iron. 14 For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: I have put upon the neck of all these nations an iron yoke to serve Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and they shall serve him, for I have given to him even the beasts of the field.’” 15 And Jeremiah the prophet said to the prophet Hananiah, “Listen, Hananiah, the Lord has not sent you, and you have made this people trust in a lie. 16 Therefore thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, I will remove you from the face of the earth. This year you shall die, because you have uttered rebellion against the Lord.’”

17 In that same year, in the seventh month, the prophet Hananiah died. ~~Jeremiah 28:12-17 (ESV)

The Lord apparently lacked love for Hananiah. Why? Because the Lord, in His love for Judah, resented the lies that Hananiah repeatedly told them regarding the Babylonian Captivity. The Lord, through Jeremiah, repeatedly warned Judah (as well as other nations) that He would use Nebuchadnezzar as His instruments of judgment, and that 70 years would pass before  He would bring Judah back to Jerusalem. Hananiah’s false prophecies that the Captivity would end in two years offered Judah a false sense of security that kept them comfortable in their sin and discouraged them from taking God’s Word seriously.

So God essentially killed the false prophet instead of “gently correcting” him. He had Jeremiah prophesy words of judgment rather than tenderly calling Hananiah to repentance. Shouldn’t Jeremiah have, in God’s love, understood that Hananiah sincerely believed God had spoken to him, and that he merely wanted to encourage Judah?

I’ve been pondering many of Jeremiah’s comments to and about false prophets and shepherds, applying them to 21st Century  evangelicals who distort Scripture and promote a false gospel of self-esteem, prosperity and direct revelation from God. Beth Moore naturally crossed my mind, as did several other evangelical teachers who lead people astray.

Lo and behold, when I logged on to Twitter on the very day I’d read Jeremiah 28:12-17, I found a link to Beth Moore’s blog post, scolding (and at one point, ridiculing) those of us who have confronted her false teaching. Evidently, by tweeting our criticisms directly to her (as I do periodically), we show “unkindness.”

More recently a friend reprimanded me for a Tweet I made regarding the idea of sending healing thoughts. While I agree that we must be as respectful and winsome as possible in correcting doctrinal error (2 Timothy 2:24-28, 1 Peter 3:15),  I also know that sometimes even the gentlest comment can be misconstrued as harsh and unloving.

Yet shouldn’t we address the various ways someone mishandles God’s Word? Shouldn’t we love those who embrace doctrinal error enough to warn them against her false teaching? Jeremiah evidently didn’t think so. In fact, his love for God’s people — and more importantly, his love for God’s Word — caused him to speak harshly to those who spoke falsely in the name of the Lord.

Dear sisters in Christ, by all means be as gentle and respectful as possible when you proclaim the Gospel and refute false teaching. But please don’t buy into the popular notion that, in order to truly exhibit love, you must compromise truth. On the, contrary, please love people enough to speak the truth. Otherwise, your “love” might be more worldly than Christian.

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