The Christian's Response
About three years ago I predicted that same-sex marriage would be legally recognized by our government within five years. I remember one sister disagreeing with me, saying it would take much longer if indeed it ever happened. As we know, my prediction came true sooner than I expected. It really wasn’t hard to forecast, all signs and currents in our society were pointing that way. But if you had asked me then if I thought we would be having discussions and arguments about who could use which bathroom, I would have thought you were being ridiculous! As we now know, I would have been very wrong. The rapid pace with which our world is changing has surprised most of us. But not all of us. High school and college-age Christians aren’t as surprised by these changes. Many, if not most, of them have had openly gay classmates; some of them have had friends that question their gender identity. So, I was not surprised to see some of my young Christian friends recently posting this graphic on Twitter, a “handy reference list” for how Christians should respond to social issues.
On first consideration, this graphic is exactly right. The Christian response to anyone and everyone should be one of love. We recall that when the lawyer asked Jesus about the greatest commandment, Jesus agreed with the lawyer’s answer, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10.27). We remember the lawyer’s follow-up question, “And who is my neighbor,” because it occasioned Jesus’ parable of the good Samaritan, a parable that not only answered the question but also made devastating application of the truth that we are to love “your neighbor as yourself.” Our Lord concluded the parable by asking who “proved to be a neighbor to the man…?” The point? We are the neighbors of anyone who is in need. We are the neighbors of those who have fallen in this sin-sick and perverse culture.
But do we love them? Young Christians are pretty good at pointing out hypocrisy and we should be grateful for the reminders of our call to love everyone, to be their neighbor. All the recent discussions regarding who uses which bathroom hasn’t brought out the best in us. My Facebook timeline is filled with husbands and fathers warning of the consequences if any man dare set a foot inside the lady’s room while their wives or daughters are inside. Trust me, I understand the sentiment and also take the safety of my wife and children very seriously. But I don’t remember a punch to the face making the list of cardinal Christian virtues either. “Hate the sin, love the sinner” sounds great in theory, but too often is seen as “hate the sin, shun the sinner” in practice. The Christian response should always be love.
However, as I reflect on this more I am filled with concern. What does this graphic mean by “love them”? I fear that it means approve and accept anyone, regardless of what you believe to be morally right or wrong. This skewed notion of love isn’t new and I’m reminded of what C.S. Lewis once wrote about man’s concept of God’s love: “What would really satisfy us would be a God who said of anything we happened to like doing, ‘What does it matter so long as they are contented?’ We want, in fact, not so much a Father in Heaven as a grandfather in heaven—a senile benevolence who, as they say, ‘liked to see young people enjoying themselves’, and whose plan for the universe was simply that it might be truly said at the end of each day, ‘a good time was had by all’.” (The Problem of Pain; page 31). And if we think of God as “loving” everyone in this way, wouldn’t we do the same?
Rather than allow the world to define love for us, disciples of Christ will want to love others in the same way as the Master. Our Lord proved Himself to be a neighbor to all, especially to those looked down upon by the moral establishment of His day. In fact, one of the main accusations they made against Him was, “Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!” (Luke 7.34). In His love for these sinners, Jesus was willing to associate with them even though it came at personal cost. But He would not accept or condone their sinful behavior. We remember His great mercy to the woman who had been brought to Him having been caught in adultery (John 8.1-11). He loved this sinner, but do you remember His final words to her? “Go. From now on sin no more.” Jesus loved this woman enough to be merciful to her. He loved her enough to die for her. He loved her enough to urge her to repentance.
So, might I propose this revised version of The Christian’s Response to Social Issues?
1. Love anyone and everyone, because God loved you even when you were at your lowest.
2. Love others enough to live above this sin-sick world. Love them enough to shine the light of a transformed life.
3. Love others enough to bring them to the Master, because He loves them and wants to heal them.
4. Love others enough to help them see the need for repentance in all of our lives. Love them enough to show them the Master’s will for all of us sinners. “Go. From now on sin no more.”