More and more, evangelicals resist any correction of sin or exhortation to holiness, condemning such things as unloving. They’ve allowed the world to redefine love as unquestioning affirmation of sinful desires and behaviors, usually twisting Scripture to accommodate a weakened stance toward sin. Don’t believe me? Just try posting “Abortion is wrong” on social media and see how many professing Christians call you unloving and intolerant. Your head will spin!
Titus 2:2 encourages older men to be sound in doctrine, love and perseverance. The following verse indicates that God would have older women emulate these qualities, which gives me reason to discuss them in a blog designed specifically for women. Last week we talked about sound doctrine, so I want to now tum our attention to the idea of having soundness in love. I want to talk about this matter precisely because secular society exerts tremendous pressure on Christians to distort Biblical love into something that panders to the flesh. If soundness in love was important in First Century Crete, how much more important is it in 21st Century America?
Certainly, a large part of Christian love demands caring for each other, and we shouldn’t minimize the value of meeting the practical needs of our brothers and sisters in Christ (see John 13:34-35, James 2:15-16 and especially 1 John 3:16-18). In no way do I want to insinuate that we should ignore actions that are typically associated with love. The fact that even the most hardcore secularist affirms the mandate to love others in practical ways demonstrates that God has written His law on the hearts of all people (Romans 1:19). I doubt anyone disagrees about this understanding of love’s nature.
As I said earlier, however, problems arise when Christians take stands against things that the Bible condemns. No matter how much we show practical love to others, we get chastised for bring hateful bigots who have no clue what real love is. So let’s address this common criticism by measuring it against 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, shall we?
4 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, 6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. ~~1 Corinthians 13:4-7(NASB95)
Verse 4 sounds relatively benign. Few people see themselves as jealous, braggers or arrogant, and most of us consider ourselves patient and kind. Verse 5 gets a little more challenging, but people generally believe that we should aspire to these traits. More accurately, they expect to be treated in ways that reflect these traits. So far, then, no one seriously disagrees about how Christians should love.
Therefore, verses 4 and 5 stay comfortably within the culturally accepted idea of love, even to the point of challenging the approaches Christians sometimes take in standing for truth and righteousness. In this regard, it doesn’t hurt to listen a bit to our critics. Are we harsh, sanctimonious or overbearing in our attitudes? Do we present Biblical positions because we honestly want to see people delivered from error or because we like to argue? Compromised evangelicals can easily tum verses 4 and 5 against us unless we check our motives, asking the Lord to purify our hearts.
But then verse 6 comes along and messes up the accepted view of love. The world has convinced many professing Christians to affirm homosexuality, to soften their stance against abortion and to incorporate other spiritual practices into their worship. If we warn against false teachers or say that Scripture is sufficient, we’re condemned as being unloving. And even suggesting that God has different roles for men and women is utterly unacceptable! Love, according to many progressive evangelicals, has no business deciding what constitutes unrighteousness, nor should it have a rigid perception of truth.
Contrary to such expectations, Biblical love requires saying things that the world doesn’t want to hear. It necessitates refusing to celebrate all forms of sin. It tells the woman walking into Planned Parenthood that abortion is murder and telling your gay cousin that you won’t attend his same sex wedding. It even means telling a co-worker you won’t punch her time card after she leaves early.
It takes courage to love the way God’s Word teaches us to love. Even the parts of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 that everyone feels comfortable with actually demand a high level of self-sacrifice. And verse 6 causes tremendous discomfort as we reject sin and stand firmly on the Word of God. Compromise with worldly standards would definitely be much easier, but that compromise wouldn’t be the robust love that God calls us to exercise. Consequently, being sound in love takes strength and dependence on the Lord to love through us.
Healthy love has greater dimension than the shallow sentimentality that passes for love even among professing Christians. If we aim to obey the Holy Spirit’s command in Titus 2:2, we must not accept the eroded version of love that so many evangelicals have adopted from the world. We must instead lean on the Lord, trusting Him to help us love in ways that honor Him.