I have observed an alarming trend in many people’s thinking of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as of late. The trend is to lean hard on the message of love and downplay any idea of judgement of wrongs to the point of non-existence. Let me start by saying that Love and Justice are not seen as being in any sort of competition in the Bible. They are out pourings of God’s righteousness. They are two sides of the same coin. They are complementary. That is to say, you cannot have Justice without Love, nor can you have Love without Justice. Now that we have seen the relationship between these two attributes of God, let us move to the alarming nature of the way some have begun to look at the Gospel. The idea, as I have heard it, is some variation of the sentiment, “God has called us to love, and not to judge.” Let us unpack this for a moment. The first assertion is that we are called to love. Yes, this is absolutely true. Jesus tells us to love God, our neighbors, and even our enemies. He also gives us a command love one another, as He has loved us. With all of these commands of love it is not surprising that the Gospel has begun to be seen namely as a message of love. In fact, John 3:16 tells us that it was because of His love, and a means of showing His love that He sent His Son. So what’s the problem? Well, the problem is that we have morphed love into something that it is not. Love carries the notion of justice. Love without justice is more akin to infatuation. If we love, then we encourage, celebrate, cheer-or, and congratulate, but we also challenge, teach, reprove, correct, and show the right way. This is why Paul says of Scripture: All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 We can also notice this in one of the most loving pictures in Scripture, Psalm 23
The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack. He lets me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He renews my life; He leads me along the right paths for His name’s sake. Even when I go through the darkest valley, I fear no danger, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff—they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Only goodness and faithful love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord as long as I live.
This is a Psalm of rejoicing in God’s provision and love, but notice that there is an element of that love that in corrective. The Gospel is a great story of God’s love for His creation, but it comes with His correction. His correction is not meant to be oppressive, instead it is freeing. He leads us on right paths for His name sake. He is our creator and knows what is best for us. It is not until we begin to define love in different terms that we come up with a meaning of love that cheers a person on regardless of their actions. Our sensibilities tell us that we can’t correct or reprove someone because that would cause them pain. This is far from the approach God takes with us. Consider Hebrews 12:3-11
3 For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, so that you won’t grow weary and lose heart. 4 In struggling against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons:
My son, do not take the Lord’s discipline lightly or faint when you are reproved by Him, 6 for the Lord disciplines the one He loves and punishes every son He receives.
7 Endure suffering as discipline: God is dealing with you as sons. For what son is there that a father does not discipline? 8 But if you are without discipline—which all receive—then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Furthermore, we had natural fathers discipline us, and we respected them. Shouldn’t we submit even more to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time based on what seemed good to them, but He does it for our benefit, so that we can share His holiness. 11 No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it yields the fruit of peace and righteousness to those who have been trained by it. God corrects those He calls to Him; to say that He does not is to contradict Scripture. Further, Jesus told His followers to love one another as He loved them. This includes that correction He regularly gave them. The Gospel proclaims the Lordship of Christ, and calls us to submit to His will and not our own. In other words, we are to set aside our own worldly sensibilities, and learn to operate and think with the sensibilities of God. Part of this means that Love is not merely cheering someone on, but correcting them. I will make one clarification, God has called us to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ the King. This means the Love of God will take the front seat. In other words, the Gospel is the proclamation that the King has ascended His throne, The Kingdom of God is advancing, and that the King has called for His enemies (that’s us) to join Him. (Of course, this is a very simplified understanding of the Gospel.) The point is that the Love of God must first change a person’s heart and add him/her into His people before that person can truly be expected the respond to rebuke. In other words, we are not called to go into the world calling everyone sinners and condemning their sin. As with Jesus’ example, we must first tend to the spiritual and physical needs, before we can expect that we can begin to correct them as a brother or sister. With all of this in mind, perhaps we can begin to set aside the notion that correcting is unloving judgement. Our lives are to be wholly surrendered to Christ, and we should rejoice when our brother or sister shows us our error.
Until next time, May God lead us in His divine will as we seek to serve Him rightly.