Why Christian love doesn’t actually look like what many Christians think it does

Posted: Monday, January 9, 2017 | Darrell B. Harrison | Faith

That you and I live today in a politically-correct society should not be understood strictly in a secular sense.

The truth is that in many ways the same can be said of the Church.

In recent decades, the ideals of relativism and pluralism have gradually gained traction within the Church so that long-held orthodoxy is being second-guessed, if not outright rejected.

This is nothing new, of course.

For centuries, the evangelical Church has endured challenges to its stated beliefs, the vast majority of which have originated from within the Church itself.

It is no different today.

Only instead of arguing over Christian orthodoxy, the discourse has morphed into a fundamental question of what the term Christian means to begin with.

The pluralistic, all-inclusive theology of 21st century Christianity is, in many respects, a worldview that has become virtually indistinguishable from other worldviews.

Talk to most professing Christians – the operative word being professing – and they would probably opine that to be Christian is essentially to “love everybody.”

It is this “kum-bah-yah” view of Christian love that assumes every person on the face of the earth, simply by virtue of his or her existence, is my brother, my sister, or my neighbor, regardless of how Jesus Himself defined those terms.

But Jesus answered the one who was telling Him and said, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, “Behold My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.”Matthew 12:48-50 (NASB)

There is an inherent danger in espousing a theology that teaches Christians are to “love everybody” without regard to other considerations, namely, the innate sinfulness of all human beings (Genesis 8:21b; 2 Chronicles 6:36a; Romans 3:10, 23).

Biblical counselor Dr. Heath Lambert underscores this point by declaring that:

“…God’s image is marred in fallen human beings. We see that the image is broken in all the ways we fail to represent Him as we should. We demonstrate that God’s image is broken in us every time we do not think as we should, obey as we should, love God and others as we should, or care for the creation in the way we should. In short, the defacing of God’s image in all those places where sin distorts how we were created to function.” – A Theology of Biblical Counseling: The Doctrinal Foundations of Counseling Ministry, pp. 188-189

Conversely, consider the words of the late Dr. Jerry Bridges, who states that:

“Most people, even people who have already become believers, have never given much thought to how desperate our condition is outside of Christ. Few people ever think about the dreadful implications of being under the wrath of God. And most of all, none of us even begins to realize how truly sinful we are.” – The Gospel For Real Life: Turn to the Liberating Power of the Gospel…Every Day, p. 19

The world has successfully convinced many Christians that loving everybody is not only a command to be unquestioningly obeyed, but complied with to the complete disregard of its hamartiological implications.

Consequently, we subjectively parse certain Scripture verses so that the Christian worldview comes across as more inclusive, even of those who do not subscribe to its teachings.

A primary example of this type of hermeneutical genuflection is how we twist and contort Matthew 5:44:

“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”  

There are those today who would leverage these specific words of Jesus in an effort to promote a politically-correct theology of Christian love that is boundaryless and open-ended.

It is this kind of “blank check” approach to Christian love that has convinced many believers it is anathema to point out sin in another person’s life (James 5:19-20) or to exercise spiritual discernment concerning the intentions of one’s motives (John 7:24).

What those who think this way fail to understand, however, is that intrinsic to Jesus’ command to “love your enemies” is the universal attestation that everyone who follows Him will have enemies (John 15:18).

This reality is clearly underscored in Paul’s exhortation to believers at the church in Thessalonica:

“Finally, brethren, pray for us that the word of the Lord will spread rapidly and be glorified, just as it did also with you; and that we will be rescued from perverse and evil men; for not all have faith.” – 2 Thessalonians 3:1-2 (NASB)

Contrary to the pluralism inherent with 21st century Christianity, a person’s mere physical existence does not suffice to deem him or her my “brother” or “sister.”

Though we are all God’s creation (Genesis 1:27), we are not all God’s children (John 1:12-13).

The Muslim man, for example, though he, too, bears the image of God, as do I, is, nonetheless, not my brother. Likewise, the Hindu woman, though she also is God’s image-bearer still is not my sister.

My pointing this out is not to suggest that we who, by God’s unmerited grace (Ephesians 2:8-9), are believers in Christ should be less motivated or inclined to genuinely – from the heart – demonstrate His love toward those who do not believe in Him (1 Peter 3:8-9; Romans 12:14).

Nevertheless, the Word of God is clear that unbelievers in Christ are the enemies of God (James 4:4) and, as such, remain exposed to His wrath (John 3:36).

“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.”Matthew 10:16 (NASB)

Christianity is not a faith to be lived blindly.

That we are to love others must not be at the expense of biblical discernment and God-given common sense, which He gives abundantly to all who belong to Him (Proverbs 2:7-11Romans 12:3; James 1:5).

The open-ended “love everybody” Christianity of today’s politically-correct culture is a theology rooted in spiritual naivety.

But as James 1:27 points out, Christians are to be spiritually discerning in all our actions and decisions as we strive to keep ourselves “unstained” by a sinful world (John 17:151 John 2:15-17).

As followers of Jesus Christ, we must reject the empty pluralism and vain ecumenicism that calls believers in Christ to “love everybody” yet would leave us blind to the reality that this world is becoming increasingly hostile toward the things of God and His people (Romans 12:9).

Humbly in Christ,

Darrell

This post first appeared here on Darrell B. Harrison's website and was reprinted with permission.