Jesus loved everyone. We are supposed to love our neighbor. Love doesn’t judge. All great points. But in many ways these points, and many others, have been twisted in our world today as a way to both suppress the truth and to give lukewarm Christians an easy cop-out for calling out sin and lies. There is so much to unpack around this topic of loving your neighbor and all the ways it is misunderstood in current Christian culture so buckle up.
What Does Loving Your Neighbor Really Mean?
We hear this phrase thrown around a lot both in Christian and secular groups alike. As a matter of fact, many unbelievers will use this reference as a way to argue against Christianity by pointing out that Jesus called us to love our neighbor but many Christians fail to do so. Or do they? What does it really mean to love your neighbor and are Christians actually doing it wrong?
The original reference comes from Matthew 12:31
The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than theseNIV
Seems pretty straight forward, right? And it really is. The command to love our neighbors is not the complication, rather it is how the word ‘love’ is defined and how we apply this verse to our lives that makes this passage complicated for Christians. Context is so important here. Often we twist the term ‘love’ to mean many things it doesn’t and in today’s culture it is used interchangeably with the terms ‘tolerant’ and ‘acceptance’. We hear progressive Christians and unbelievers alike say that loving our neighbors means accepting their choices and lifestyles as well as tolerating their interpretations of scripture – no matter how incorrect they may be.
Love may be a complicated thing to understand, but it certainly does not mean that we stop acknowledging truth in order to spare someone’s feelings. In fact, love may often involve telling those we care about things they do not want to hear because of our love for them.
What Would Jesus Really Do?
That’s really what it all comes down to right? And it’s usually what those in favor of the ‘love equals tolerance’ ideology will use – “well, Jesus loved and accepted everyone.” And, sure that is true. But, when we look at how Jesus demonstrated His love toward us we see that, yes, He did die “while we were yet sinners,” meaning we can go to Him just as we are. But, His death does not give us free reign to live as we please. In His ministry, even before his crucifixion, He called people to turn from their sins.
The adulterous woman is probably the most used example by people who do not understand Jesus’ ministry when trying to argue for “loving your neighbor” as a way to get around calling out sin. They point out that Jesus called out to the accusing crowd and asked which one of them was without sin – of course, no one could step forward to cast that first stone because only Jesus could boast of His sinlessness. So, we often hear something like this: “I’m not perfect so I cannot judge someone else.” Well, sure. That’s true. But people often ignore the second part of that passage where Jesus tells the woman to “go and sin no more.” Though He accepted HER, He did not accept her SIN. There is a difference.
Of course, we are not sinless like Jesus nor are we given authority from the Father as He was in matters of judging sins – BUT, if we are keepers of His word then it should follow that we point out those things that oppose His word. If we are following Him then we should naturally love what He loved and weep for that which made Him weep.
Let us also not forget that it was sin that caused Him to die a torturous death. Yours. Mine. And all the rest of humanity’s. We should be broken-hearted for the acts, thoughts, and evils that required our Jesus to suffer – whether they are our own or someone else’s.
The Gospel Is Offensive
Political correctness has unfortunately made its way into our churches, bible studies, and Christian books. The idea of offending anyone for any reason has become taboo. Yet we so easily forget just how offensive the Gospel is.
The Gospel not only offends as it points out our undeniable unworthiness before a Holy God. But it also offends because it tells of the ONLY way to have worthiness – through the blood of the perfect Lamb of God. And, possibly the most offensive part of all, the Gospel asks us to come as we are to the foot of the cross but to pick up that cross and carry it as a CHANGED person. The gospel asks us to hate what our flesh loves. It asks us to offend ourselves with constant reminders that apart from God we have no goodness, no love, no kindness within us.
Look at the life of Jesus – a life spent teaching, feeding, healing, and working miracles – yet, they hated Him. They sought reasons to kill Him long before His hour came. They whispered among themselves, they questioned His authority, and many truly hated Him.
But He was perfect.
He helped people.
He did good things.
Yeah, but all of that OFFENDED those who opposed Him. He called out the Pharisees, the adulterers, the tax collectors, the doubters, and the hypocrites. Jesus did not withhold a single ounce of truth in order to avoid offending someone. Because He knew that, for those He loved, only the Truth could set us free.
Lying Is Not Loving
Truth is something avoided in many ways today. Out of convenience. Out of fear of what people will think. Out of simply not understanding there is an absolute truth. What is perhaps the most confusing part of the world’s current view of truth is that loving someone means keeping the truth from them. We currently live in a culture that convinces us to lie out of love.
I know that sounds unbelievable. I know it seems that isn’t the case. But when we compare what Jesus called us to do – proclaim the gospel – and what the world currently does – proclaim the version of the truth that makes us happiest – then it all makes sense. We trade the truth in for a lie and then convince ourselves it is the most loving thing we can do when we withhold the truth from those we care about in order to spare their feelings.
I don’t know about you, but I think that loving people involves telling them the truth. Even if the truth hurts. Which, it often does. Our flesh wants to fight truth, but our soul longs for it. So, we are in a constant battle in this life. A battle of what the flesh wants and what the soul needs. One will win. For some it will be the flesh. For others the soul. But, if we are truly loving those in our lives we will want the latter for them. We will care more for their soul than for their ego, their emotions, or their earthly satisfaction.
Let us stop trading the Truth of God’s word for lies and call it love. Rather, let us disregard what others will think of us – even if they accuse us of hate – and start telling them the Truth that can heal, the Truth that can free, and the Truth that can satisfy their soul.