When testing to see what kind of a faith you hold to, many will often ask, “Are you part of a grace church, or a law church?” – thinking that grace and law are mutually exclusive. Fortunately, the truth couldn’t be further from that. Grace and law are not mutually exclusive, but rather they are inseparable. You cannot hold law without love, and you can truly hold love without holding onto law. In fact, they depend upon each other to keep things in balance.
Unfortunately, many hold these two things out of balance, clinging to the one and excluding the other – causing all of us problems, and many to attempt to choose either the side of love or the side of law, when sides cannot be chosen.
Allow me to illustrate the problem I am addressing. You may have heard about the Westboro Baptist church, our lovely religious friends who are notorious for waving around loud, angry banners that say in big, bold letters, “God hates [homosexuals].” I have chosen not to use the actual word they have used. If you really want to see an example their negative approach you can check out their website. It’s really not worth your time though, let me assure you.
Well anyway, all I can say to them is “thank you” – for making it hard for the rest of us who are actually trying to help people and show love. This kind of behaviour is obviously not helpful. Besides this message being very obviously wrong (God does NOT hate the homosexual but rather homosexuality), this appr?oach is not the way to win people over. It is over-emphasizing law and forgetting love.
“Okay, but… so what?” You might be thinking. “I do not wave around banners and say that God hates gays!”
Well, maybe not, but my husband and I have recognized a dangerous trend in the Lord’s church. It seems that whenever the blights of society are mentioned, homosexuality is inevitably thrown out as an example—and oftentimes exclusively. It is a little frustrating.
Don’t get me wrong, I know that it should be preached on—but it is an obvious wrong to most people found in the audience of any Bible-believing church.
The reason we find it incredibly frustrating is because other more needful and applicable applications are being neglected while we hammer away at things that most of the audience has no inclination towards. You end up either cultivating hearts that are proud in their lack of homosexuality and comfortable in their lack of faith, works, and love—or minds that crave for balance and practical application that end up leaving the church entirely (just see the Focus Press Survey “Why I Left the Church.” Very eye-opening).
Interestingly, Paul says that those who are lazy and those who become busybodies are worthy of discipline by the church body (2 Thessalonians 3:7-14), yet I hear relatively few lessons that preach against laziness and gossip. Maybe there would not be so many people saying “Amen.”
I am afraid that we are missing the depth, balance, and beauty of the Bible while avidly riding our hobby horses around.
It makes me sad that the bad reputation and unbalanced preaching in the name of Christianity precedes my behaviour and taints people’s view of how I am going to react before I even get a chance to open my mouth. It is because of the militant behaviour of some (like the aforementioned) that homosexuality has become an issue that people often bring up when I say I am a Christian. It’s like a test. “Are you one of those intolerant, closed-minded people? Are you homophobic?”
I am quick to point out that if what I have is really a phobia, then I must be just as homophobic as I am alcoholic-o-phobic, fornicator-o-phobic, or liar-o-phobic. As all of these practices are contrary to my beliefs, I simply cannot agree with them—but that does not mean I treat those who are ensnared by them differently to anyone else. Disagreeing with what an individual is doing does not mean that I stop loving them or trying to help them.
This is where love harmonises with law.
There is no contradiction between law and love, though human reasoning would have it to be so. I can say that I still love them because love is not an acceptance of someone regardless of what they have done. A true love for others will not allow me to simply agree and be content with the way that their lives are headed, but causes me to act in every way out of a loving, living and active concern for their souls. Love—true agape love—demands that we do what is best for each soul, because true love always seeks what is best for another. Love demands law.
It serves us well to remember that even God, our perfect example of love, does not accept everyone, though He loves everyone. God wants us to teach all of His will and love all people enough to help them to become what He wants them to become (cf. Matthew 28:19-20; 2 Peter 3:9; et. al.). We need to show the same love to everyone—God doesn’t rank sins and neither should we. He places the murderer and the prostitute beside liars and the spiritually fearful (cf. Revelation 21:8).
Please, let’s be balanced. Let’s treat all people and sins equally. Let’s live and teach the law in love.
Love and law are inseparable.
How can we achieve a balance of love and law?
1. Remember where you have come from (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).
No matter how good you are, you have not always been good. You have made mistakes. Remember that you have done things to hurt God just as any other person has. If you have changed, so too can anyone else.
2. Remember that how you say something is just as important as what you are saying (Ephesians 4:15).
Your mother was right when she told you “It is not what you said, it’s how you said it.” Even if you are telling someone the truth, you can turn someone completely off a beautiful truth by using ugly words or offering them at inappropriate times. The truth is beautiful and liberating. Do your best to present it in an attractive package so people can see it for what it is.
3. Consider how you would like to be treated (Matthew 7:12).
Think about how you would like someone to talk to you if you were caught up in a sin, and treat others accordingly. Would you want someone to love you enough to tell you the truth? How would you like that truth to be communicated to you? The golden rule is easy to forget, but it is vital part of living the way that God wants us to live.
4. Remember the end of a lost soul (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9).
No matter who someone is or what they have done, you do not want them to suffer because you did not tell them the truth in a loving way. Let it not be said of you, “You never mentioned Him to me!” or, “I thought you couldn’t possibly have the truth because you were so unloving!”
5. Remember that all sins need to be lovingly addressed—law is love (Acts 20:27).
Yes, homosexuality, abortion, fornication, and immodesty exist in the world. Yes, the supporters of and participants in these sins are growing in number. Yes, this is sad for society. However there are many other things wrong with society, many of them much closer to home and able to be applied to our very selves. Be active in opposing all that is wrong—not just a certain set of obvious sins.
6. Never compromise (2 Timothy 4:2, 3)
Sure, a lot of what we believe is not popular right now and people are going to call us intolerant and close-minded—that is okay. Let them. If you have done your best to say what you need to in love, then you have done your part. Love dictates how we say things—but love will not let us compromise in what we say. Love is not separate from truth.
7. Remember that while we are told to “root out, to pull down and to destroy, and throw down” false practices, we are also told to “to build and to plant” (cf. Jeremiah 1:10)
When our Christianity is always on the offensive, we can become blinded to the fact that we need to be encouraging those who are doing the right thing. Remember that the more people who are encouraged to be strong and stay strong, the better society will be for future generations. People can easily become discouraged if all they hear about is how bad everything and everyone is. Be active in supporting, encouraging, and upholding as examples those who go out of their way to help the poor, show kindness, encourage others, and build strong families.
Articles and Resources on How to Achieve Balance:
Balanced Preaching, Focus Magazine
Preachers Take That Hobby Horse Out to Pasture, Plain Simple Faith
Get Your Shine On, Preacher’s Favourite Passage
Balancing Doctrine and Discernment, Neal Pollard
Not the “Same Love” as 1 Corinthians 13, Cindy Colley –[I particularly like what her son said to her in the 2nd paragraph]
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