There are many hot-button issues in our culture today, and my experience has been that often Christians come down in one of two camps. The first is that no matter what someone has done, all we are to do is love them. The most important thing is to love, which often looks like tolerance. The second camp is that if someone is living in sin, they are wrong and should be judged accordingly. Often this looks like hate.
It seems to me that there should be some sort of middle ground. Jesus definitely commands us as believers to love. He modeled love while He was on earth, and in His death and resurrection as He took the punishment we deserved. John 13:34-35 says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (NIV). Our love for each other must be sincere, and we get a pretty thorough definition of love in 1 Corinthians 13. I don’t think, though, this love extends to tolerance of wrong or sinful behavior. While this behavior in someone else does not give us the license to hate, if we truly care about someone then we do not want them to keep going down a path of sin. God desperately wants people to turn away from sin and follow Him in obedience. In love, shouldn’t we want the same thing?
So where is this middle ground? On the really tough issues like abortion or gay marriage, how do we respond? First of all, I think we need to pray. Ask God to give us a love for people, whether they agree with us or not. We should search the Scriptures, our source of authority on what is right or wrong, to see what God has to say. Then, we shouldn’t back down from what God says is right. Now more than ever it seems people disagree with the positions that the Bible has. But there is no shying away from the things the Bible calls sin. We must rely strongly on the guidance of the Holy Spirit to know how exactly to confront someone who does not agree with the Bible’s position or who is practicing a sinful behavior. God’s grace is amazing and free for all of us! We should continually turn our focus to Him.
I read this quote recently that seemed to really pull together my thoughts on this topic. It is from Bryant Myers’ book Walking with the Poor: “God’s love of us and our neighbor can be a tough, truth-telling, there-are-consequences, your-soul-is-in-danger kind of love. But, there is never hate; the enemy is never demonized or declared hopeless. The offer of grace is always there”.
If this is the way God loves us, isn’t that how we should love others?