Sunday, April 03, 2011

Cranky Church Members - Pt. 2 The Most Threatening Virtue

"Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love." 1 John 4:7-8

It's that simple! If you love, you know God. If you don't love, you don't know God.

So, the world should know the church by what characteristic most? Well, I'll throw a suggestion out there. Perhaps, love.

But surveys show that the first thing unbelievers say about us isn't "You know what bothers me most about Christians? They're just too loving!"

Now, I know, I know. I can just hear some Christians begging me to define love before this gets out of hand. I can just hear some saying, "But love means loving people enough to tell them the truth! It's not loving to let someone perish without letting them know they are in error."

True, but can we just admit that's not exactly the gospel's best definition of love? 1 Corinthians 13 doesn't harp on love being a trait of judging people's eternal destiny. It's more about patience, kindness, and humility...words that rarely get thrown out in discussions about truth. (Save your breath. I know some of you want me to point out that love rejoices in the truth...I'm way ahead of you.)

I'm concerned about the church. But not for our lack of truth...for our lack of love.

Let's face it: In some churches, the longer you go to church, the crankier you get. Ask any of your preachers. I don't have a desk full of angry letters from people under the age of fifty (now I've created more hate because I've defined what it means to be old).

It seems to me that if our churches are spiritually forming people into the image of Jesus, then people who had been in church longest would be the most loving. Let me be honest, that's not always the case.

And I'm not really pointing the finger at our members. I think it's the fault of our leaders. Christians certainly bear some responsibility. But our churches must not exactly be love factories partly because our focus has been on perfect doctrine to the detriment of our loving lives.

The moment one is baptized ought to be the moment a Christian loved least. The love chart ought to be a quick upward trend following that moment.

Perhaps we ought to check the water for more than its temperature because it's not bring the desired outcome when it comes to love.

In the past three weeks, I've had three conversations with people who are upset because of my recent preaching and blogging. All three of those conversations have to do with the dialectic between love and truth.

I get it, we need to pursue truth. But not at the cost of love.

They will know we are Christians by our love. Love is the name on our jersey. It's the name we go by.

I'm just not so sure the world knows it yet?

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9 comments:

Clint Packer said...

Haha, I think I'm 1 of those 3 conversations you talked about. That was a good talk we had. But I will continue to uphold truth over love.

You wrote: "I get it, we need to pursue truth. But not at the cost of love."

MY response: We need to pursue truth in order to achieve love. How do you love someone without the truth?

You wrote: "I'm concerned about the church. But not for our lack of truth...for our lack of love."

My response: You can make the argument that the church lacks love, that's fine by me. But you should be more concerned for the churches lack of truth. Look at the thousands of denominations and all the different beliefs. Where is the truth in that? The answer to that is not to throw aside the truth in order to unite. Christ will restore all things at his return. In the meantime, we should uphold the truth(and love at the same time of course). But truth has to be first(in my opinion).

You wrote: "Let's face it: In some churches, the longer you go to church, the crankier you get. Ask any of your preachers. I don't have a desk full of angry letters from people under the age of fifty...It seems to me that if our churches are spiritually forming people into the image of Jesus, then people who had been in church longest would be the most loving. Let me be honest, that's not always the case."

My response: Perhaps it's a false assumption that our churches are forming people into the image of Jesus. I'm only 30 yrs old and consider me one of those "cranky christians" right along side the "old people." (your words not mine, haha) Maybe we wouldn't be so "cranky" if the truth wasn't being pushed aside for the sake of unity. So are we "trouble makers" because we stand up for the truth?

I know you love the truth and would never want to suppress it. But that is exactly what your love argument does. It calls for the truth tellers to be silent. I would never question your intentions because I know you to be a great guy, but could this be? Obviously, love is extremely important and a great thing to preach about. But where does it rank on our priority list in relation to truth? That is the question here and I say truth is 1 and love is 2.

You wrote: "Now, I know, I know. I can just hear some Christians begging me to define love before this gets out of hand."

My response: That's a great idea. Lets define love. Does the Bible have a definition?

This is love, that we walk according to His commandments. II John 6

For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous. I John 5:3

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil BUT REJOICES WITH THE TRUTH. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. I Corinthians 13: 4-7

Sorry to go against you on this one Collin. At least now, both sides of the argument is represented.

Clint

Ben Ries said...

Clint,

So you do a great job of pointing out what love is by quoting these verses:

This is love, that we walk according to His commandments.
II John 6

For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.
I John 5:3

I have to admit, at this point, you're ahead of the game.

However, what does our good friend Jesus say are the two greatest commandments that you suggest we follow? Are they not to love God and love neighbor?

So...to follow YOUR logic...the Bible's definition of love is to follow his commandments which Jesus in turn defines as love.

So, the TRUTH of the matter is that love wins.

Sorry to go against you Clint, but I'm sticking with Jesus on this one.

Clint Packer said...

Well I guess I need to clarify my post in light of Ben's comments. I am NOT arguing against love. Love is a central teaching of the Bible. I'm all for "love winning," just so long as truth wins also. I am trying to argue the principle of the matter without going into any of the doctrinal disagreements I may have with someone. So with that said, I'm not sure that Ben and I are in disagreement about anything in regards to that. And I don't mean it in an ugly way when I say I'm against Collin on this one. I'm not against Collin or anybody, I'm just disagreeing slightly on this particular issue. I am one of Collin's cousins by the way from Dallas.
This all started with the mentioning of Rob Bell's book "Love Wins." I happen to not agree with some of Rob Bell's teachings even if it is inspirational and thought provoking. Rob Bell's book is not the Bible and should not be treated as such. I disagree with Rob Bell for different reasons than most people, but that is not the point. The point is, Collin seemed to be frustrated by Christians bickering about the doctrinal issues of Rob Bell's book, and therefore, love didn't win. Collin, correct me if I'm misrepresenting your view at all. If you will notice, there are thousands of different church denominations separated because of doctrinal disputes. The idea that we should put aside these doctrinal disagreements for the sake of unity, I don't agree with. The truth must be upheld. If we unify all the churches that claim to be Christians in order to have some unified front for the world so that God will be pleased with our efforts, we would have to push the truths of the Bible aside in order to do that. Did Paul compromise doctrinal issues with the 1st century churches or did he correct them when they strayed from the truth? The Pharisees had all kinds of doctrinal disputes with Jesus. Did Jesus ignore these issues or correct them? Jesus caused all kinds of division among the people of that day because he never backed down from the truth. He angered many people by the things he said. If his message was to ignore doctrine and truth and just live in harmony with everybody despite our differences, there would have been no reason to kill him. So I'm just saying that there is nothing wrong with a respectful debate about doctrine. Just because we don't agree with someone, that doesn't mean we are being unloving. We should not shy away from seeking the truths of the Bible in fear of dividing the church. Christ builds his church, not us. Only the Father can draw someone to him. It is not up to us humans to establish the Kingdom of God here on earth before Christ even returns. We are to preach the gospel as a witness, not to convert the whole world before Christ's return. So even this debate should be welcomed. Love is not losing just because we may not agree.

Ben Ries said...

Hi Clint -

Thanks for clarifying a few things. Like you, I'm not against disagreement at all and having spent time with your cousin, Collin, I know he isn't against it, either. (In fact, him and I disagree on how much product we should use in our hair. I think we should use very little, he thinks we should use a lot.)

In the spirit of Christian disagreement, I would want to clarify that you and I do disagree. In fact, if you still stand by your first comment, I'm absolutely sure we disagree! Just to be upfront, I understand that you make it very clear that you think love is important, I'm not arguing with that at all. I believe you when you say that you are not arguing against love.

What I am arguing with is the fact that you prioritize truth over love. You state clearly that truth is 1 and love is 2, correct? My point is that Jesus explicitly places love as the primary virtue for his followers and that even when we follow your definition of biblical love we still end up with love (not truth, as you imply) as priority number 1.

Like you, I don't think truth should be pushed aside. I think it should upheld. That is why I feel compelled to disagree with you and to point out that in an effort to uphold "truth" you push aside the biblical mandate to maintain love as priority number 1. You do the very thing that you're arguing against.

Now, "What does 'love' mean?" is a different kind of question to wrestle with. That's a place you and I may find common ground. However, your "Truth is #1" argument is neither biblical or doctrinally sound. Therefore, in the spirit of loving Christian disagreement, I'm willing to risk unity to uphold the truth of what Jesus says. Love is the priority.

Clint Packer said...

Let me explain my position a different way and see if you agree. Instead of prioritizing truth over love or vise versa, let me change that. I am saying that you can't love without the truth because truth is a part of the very definition of love. Love is a very broad virtue with many aspects. I Cor. 13: 4-7 gives all of these aspects of love which include patience, kindness, among other virtues. It also says that love "rejoices with the truth." So perhaps we can't rank one over the other because they are one and the same. You can't love someone while being unkind at the same time because kindness is love, it is part of the biblical definition of love. Truth is also part of the biblical definition. Do you agree with that revised explanation?

Also I was a little confused by your second to last paragraph. You said that you agree about upholding the truth. But then you go on to say that in MY efforts to uphold the truth, I'm pushing aside the biblical mandate to love. But YOU are trying to uphold the truth by disagreeing with me. So are you being unloving toward me for disagreeing with me? I don't think so, but it seems to be unloving according to your argument. And how am I pushing aside love in my pursuit of truth if truth is part of the very definition of love? Maybe you can explain that paragraph. I'm still not even sure if we are in disagreement or not.

You said you were willing to sacrifice unity in order to uphold the truth against me. I think that is great. That is my whole argument. Upholding the truth is love. Love doesn't lose just because we are discussing, debating, or arguing doctrine. Sure I think we should approach these discussions with respect for each other. But just because some people can't handle disagreements well, that doesn't mean we should avoid the issues altogether.

So back to the example of Rob Bell's book. Is love losing because people are debating biblical doctrines from Rob Bell's book? I say no. I say it's a great opportunity to talk about these issues. I say let the truth tellers speak. We shouldn't discourage discussions about doctrinal truths. Love doesn't lose in these debates, I say love is winning in these debates because truth is part of the definition of love.

Collin Packer said...

I'm more confused than anyone at this point.

Ben, I do disagree strongly with your stance toward hair care products. I do think you're in the wrong and an apology would be helpful in beginning to mend our relationship.

Clint, thanks for your thoughts. It will be interesting to see what you think about the rest of the blog posts.

I'm going to see Rob Bell at an event in Denver tonight. I'm excited to see what he will share.

Micah said...

Confusing? Yeah!

If you don't first love someone, will you ever get to share the "truth" with them? I think not. They will reject everything that comes out of your mouth. You might "tell" them the truth, but they won't receive it, and it has to be received to be "shared".

I think if you are going to define love, you must also define truth.

The law equaled truth in the old testament right? Did Jesus not come and criticize the Pharisees for upholding the law (truth) to the point that they were forgetting about love? The Pharisees were right when it came to truth (law), but that didn't seem to be Jesus' main concern. Aren't we guilty of the same things...very often?

There is a time and place to share the truth with someone. It just so happens to be after someone knows that they are loved by us.

Another question: Does Jesus' blood cover "doctrinal sin"? If it does, should we not be more forgiving in this area? Especially if it does bring unity...which Jesus also desires.

Good discussion fellas! Hope to meet you in person some day.

Clint Packer said...

Well I'm back for more. I've caused confusion, which is the last thing I want to do. And I've failed to effectively convey my point. So I'll try again.

Let's say everything I'm saying is completely ridiculous and wrong. Should you:
A)correct me, and in doing so be unloving
B)be silent, and "love me to death" despite the fact that I'm influencing everyone around me with false doctrine, and in doing so creating a false sense of unity and incorrectly saying that "love is winning"
C)correct me, and in doing so loving me at the same time because truth is love according to I Corinthians 13: 4-7. And then love truly does win.

If you chose "C", then we agree with each other.

Is love more important than kindness? Or love more important than patience? You can't rank one over the other because according to I Cor. 13:4-7, kindness and patience are love. This verse also tells us that truth is also part of the biblical definition of love. So it is incorrect to try and separate the two. Yes I know, I incorrectly started it with my first post. And yes Micah is correct by pointing out that we will more effectively share truth with someone when we have a relationship with them. But hopefully this blog will do.

So back to my original disagreement with Collin. Again, Collin correct me if I'm wrong. I don't want to speak for you. But according to your original blog post about love not winning due to the blogosphere going crazy over Rob Bell's book, you seem to be choosing "B" in my question above by saying that we shouldn't debate Rob Bell's doctrines in his book. You say that love is losing because people are debating Rob Bell's doctrines, but I say they are choosing "C" and love is winning. I disagree with Rob Bell for different reasons than most people, but that is not the point. THE POINT IS if someone feels that Rob Bell is wrong in what he is saying, then they should choose "C". Doctrine does matter. We must not forget that there is an evil force in this world that has set out to deceive God's people and to water down the truths of the Bible. We must not rely on our own understanding, but listen to and trust God's word. We should test everything that anybody says against God's word, that includes Rob Bell, Collin, and Myself.

And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. II Thess. 2:10-12

My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. I John 3:18

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. I Cor. 13:6

You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine. Titus 2:1

He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it. Titus 1:9

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away [their] ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. II Timothy 4:3-4

Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we [henceforth] be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, [and] cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, [even] Christ: Eph. 4:13-15

Collin Packer said...

I wonder if those three are the only options, Clint. All of this conversation and all of these options leave it all up to us. Is there a place for us not to be as concerned with each other and leave this all up to God? I think so.

In addition, I've never stated it to be wrong to disagree or have dialogue differing with Rob Bell's opinions. My main concern is the rancor with which many of these critiques have been leveled against Bell. Some of these critiques have been hateful, spiteful, and at times downright unchristian.

As one Christians leader has said recently, "I've learned that people can be right and still be mean." How we believe what we believe is as important as what we believe.

The world is looking in at this debate and others and they are reading us as their Bible. They ask, "Is this what it looks like to be a Christian? If so, I'm out!" I'm unwilling for that to be said of me.