Earle D. Treptow
The title of the CNN online article caught my attention: “The God of love had a really bad week.” In the article, Diana Butler Bass expresses profound disappointment with the direction of American Christianity. She contends that many who sang “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world” in Sunday school have abdicated their responsibility to love all the people Jesus loves. In particular she grieves over the many conservative Christians who have opted for a God “who exercises judgment against all who refuse to bend the knee, a kind of Emperor-God, enthroned in glory,” rather than the compassionate, welcoming God she reads about in the Bible. “For whatever reason,” she laments, “western Christianity has a hard time sticking with a God of love.”
How would you respond? Would you suggest that her charge is more than a little overdone and fails to see that God can be both perfectly loving and perfectly just at the same time? Or would you remain silent rather than speaking and being portrayed as unloving? There’s something appealing about each of those options, but both fall short.
Each Christian has a responsibility to explain, gently and patiently, that encouraging a morality in line with what God has revealed in his Word is an act of love. For example, as Christians speak out against abortion, they do well to emphasize that they speak not only out of love for God and his Word but also out of love for the people for whom Jesus died, including the unborn children who are victims of abortion. They are genuinely seeking the best interest of everyone involved—the unborn child, the pregnant woman, and the greater community.
Unfortunately, our best attempts at patient instruction sometimes meet rejection. As soon as people do what we expect them to do—reject the Scriptures’ teaching—we often quickly drop our patience and go on the attack to make our point. And just like that, the people we presumably wanted to help can say, “It’s obviously pride that compels them to say what they do, not love.”
We could argue, to the great delight of those who think like we do, that people who say that are being judgmental. We could complain about the blatant double standard Arguing and complaining, however, won’t help the people God wants us to reach with his Word.
It would be far better if we were simply to accept the challenge to live in a way that demonstrates our love for all. If we wish to be heard when we speak the truth and to have people believe that love—and love alone—compels us to speak, then we must consistently give of ourselves to others.
Day after day, we must actively seek the best interest of those around us. That includes loving and serving the people down the street who live in a way that conflicts with God’s design for life. When people see selfless love in action and sense that love indeed compels us, they will be more likely to listen when we must speak God’s truth.
There’s no guarantee, of course, that demonstrating love will result in people recognizing that we are speaking in love when we proclaim portions of God’s Word that the world considers unloving. But let’s make it difficult for people to call us unloving. Let’s give them powerful evidence to the contrary.
Contributing editor Earle Treptow, president of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wisconsin, is a member at Christ Alone, Thiensville, Wisconsin.
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Author: Earle D. Treptow
Volume 106, Number 11
Issue: November 2019
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