© 04.20.2016 By D. Eric Williams
This article appeared in the April 21 edition of the Cottonwood Chronicle
There is a divide amongst Christians betwixt those who consider theology of primary importance and believers who claim love is paramount. The truth is, both positions have validity but the ultimate nod must go to those who give love the position of preeminence.
In 1 Corinthians chapter 13 the apostle Paul says, Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). This is clear enough - and it covers all the bases. In a nutshell, you can have everything required of the Christian and yet have nothing if you lack the one thing, love. As important as good theology is, it does not supersede the need for love. The problem is, it's impossible to love as you ought if you do not have good theology.
In the next four versus of 1 Corinthians, Paul describes the character of true love, saying, love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). It may not seem so but it takes wisdom to live in accordance with Paul's description of love. Elsewhere Scripture says to love your neighbor as yourself (Leviticus 19:18, Matthew 19:19, etc.) and this seems a clear-cut distillation, until we find ourselves in the midst of a circumstance where we don't understand how to proceed. Even if we boil this down to "do what most benefits the other person" we find ourselves in need of guidance; how do we really love the other person in every situation?
Now, lest you think I am creating a problem where none exists let me remind you there are millions of Christians who believe biblical love demands State mandated confiscatory taxes in order to facilitate wealth redistribution. "Ah, you're talking about politics not the Christian religion" you might say. And yet the more perceptive observer recognizes that all of life is religious, including politics. Thus, love properly expressed is ultimately a matter of theology. Those millions of Christians who believe it is the duty of the state to care for the poor are theologically misguided. And the reason they are theologically misguided is because they have not read their Bible or they have read it and misunderstood what it says. Thus, their expression of love (government entitlement programs) is in fact not loving at all but a form of enslavement.
Love unbounded by theology is frequently destructive. It is often a means of confirming the other person in sin. It isn't loving to be "open and affirming." It is sinful and confirms rebels in their sin. It isn't loving to disregard biblically mandated ecclesiastical roles; it is sinful and breeds a subversive spirit within the Church. It isn't loving to overlook sin in the life of your brother or sister; indeed, it is hateful (Leviticus 19:17, Luke 17:3, etc.).
The way to true love is the new creation hungering and thirsting for the character of God. Indeed, the reality test on whether or not we love God's children is this: Do we love God? Do we keep his commands? (1 John 5:2, The Message Bible).
Next Week: Milk or solid food?