walk in the word
God’s Character, Your Walk With God
The church today is infected with an imbalance of biblical love. On the one hand is radical fundamentalism, emphasizing legalistic truth and screaming, “This is what the Book says, boy!” On the other, we have liberal Christianity, which says, “Bag the Bible; we have Jesus! We have His heart for the hurting, and we’re going to make a difference in this world.”
Many times we feel caught between these two choices: the call to stand for God’s unchanging truth, as given in His Word, and the command to love, which Jesus said is how “all men will know that you are My disciples” (John 13:35). And so we get into this balancing act of love and truth. Most of us fall on one side or the other.
Let me tell you something straight up: it’s not about balancing truth and love. We can’t walk that tightrope. We’re not supposed to be balancing them as though they are separate things. In Ephesians 4:15, he talks about “speaking the truth in love.” Then in 1 Corinthians 13:6, Paul writes that love “does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth.” Notice, it’s not truth versus love; truth is part of the biblical definition of love. Without truth, any expression of love is crippled.
So how do we integrate truth and love in a way that is consistent with God’s Word? First, on the majors, take action. In every relationship there comes a time when the issues are serious, and failure to take action will produce a big fallout. In those instances, love does not sit passively by. How do you know if a situation is major? Ask yourself the following questions:
§ Is this a critical path? If the person you love is involved in behavior that could destroy him or someone else, love will get involved.
§ Is the problem chronic? If you see the same thing happening over and over, it doesn’t have to be big to get your love into gear.
§ Does my proximity imply responsibility? How close are you to the situation? There are some things that you can live with in your neighbors and close friends, but you can’t live with in your spouse and kids.
Keep in mind that how you go about this is absolutely critical. Love is gracious, not rude. There is no place for an aggressive, boisterous, obnoxious, open-wide-while-I-jam-this-down-your-throat kind of approach. Love “does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own” (1 Corinthians 13:5). That’s biblical love in action, and it’s powerful.
You might think that there are many such confrontations in life. Not so. If you were to list a hundred things that could possibly require confronting your boss, spouse, or neighbor, perhaps three things could fit the “major” category. The other ninety-seven things are minors—personal preferences, personality differences, and other issues that are not critical or chronic.
Here’s the principle for dealing with minor issues: acceptance. It’s essential that followers of Christ be the most accepting, non-prejudiced, non-faultfinding, non-critical people on the face of the earth. Often we’re not, but we should be. Love learns to accept the person with his or her “warts.” Love doesn’t deny the irritation; it simply recognizes that the one I love is far more important than my own desire to live an irritant-free life.
So if you have an issue with someone, determine whether it is major or minor. If it’s minor, maybe it’s time to lighten up and love them as they are, with all of their little quirks. But if it’s major, talk with the person privately and express your concern for him or her. Mention what you see in their life, and point out where such actions might lead if left unchecked. Share verses of Scripture that speak authoritatively to that issue, and then pray together. And, of course, in all things display love.
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