Know Your Bible

VOL. 8                           October 11, 2009                           NO. 40

The Guiding Principle Of Love 

            It saddens me to read the words of some formerly-sound brethren that have written lately. Though the subjects have been diverse, there seems to be an underlying theme to many of their writings lately, and that is that we should set aside the commandments of God and abide by what is called "the guiding principle of love." As an example, one brother writes that he "knows" the Bible teaches a man should be baptized for the remission of sins, but then turns around and pleads that we should accept one as a true convert who was baptized for some other reason [not for the remission of sins]; this same brother has also recently stated that he "knows" the Bible [NT] does not authorize instrumental music in worship, but he then states that he cannot say it is sinful; another brother pushes an erroneous view on God's law regarding marriage, divorce and remarriage and, without any Scripture to back up his opinion, inserts meaning into the text and [not surprisingly then] finds a way to make the text allow remarriage for just about any situation in which a divorce occurs [anybody who does not see it as he does is simply "following tradition"]; other brethren, seeking to justify the remarriage of a woman put away without cause, make an emotional plea [based on their ostensible "compassion" for her situation] and argue that she really does have a right to remarry should he commit adultery after the initial divorce. The "guiding principle of love" [though not expressly stated] is again the appeal made to disregard God's clear law, and any who do not extend compassion in the same way they do are painted as cold-hearted and Pharisaical legalists.

 

            I am saddened at this recent trend, but I do not expect that it will end anytime soon. I am afraid we are seeing the results of a small drip that began years ago and which is about to turn into a raging flood. It seems that since a prominent preacher's error was exposed and others subsequently defended him [with the plea to continue fellowship with him even as he espoused error], we have seen a marked increase in the number of men in the church who are willing to expose themselves as propagators of error without fear of reprisal. Even men who condemned this preacher's error are now propagating error without any qualms, emboldened by their circle of friendly preachers and writers who are unashamedly taking it upon themselves to defend men now instead of God's word. Regularly, the defenders are hurling accusations at those who have exposed them as ones "lacking a brotherly spirit"--no doubt based on this "guiding principle of love" that says when we disagree, we should just close our eyes to error and "just love one another" without making their error an issue!

 

           Common among all of these recent efforts to promote error as truth are attempts to redefine terms that have been known for centuries into something that will accommodate their efforts to make Scriptures teach what they do not actually teach. "Adultery" is no longer sexual relations with on who is not one's spouse; "divorce" is not really "divorce"; and even "love" has come to mean something that God never intended nor used such a way as these men are trying to convince us it means. Maybe we need to take a minute to consider what it really means to "love" one another and love our brother.

 

            Let us first be reminded that Jesus expects His disciples to be people of love; of this there should be no question for it is how we are known to be His disciples by the world (John 13:34, 35). The Holy Spirit-inspired apostle Paul to wrote that love is the fulfillment of the law (Gal. 5:13-15). He was the one who was also inspired to write, "Let all that you do be done with love" (1 Cor. 16:14). The Holy Spirit-inspired apostle John wrote extensively on love, saying plainly, "He who does not love does not know God, for God is love" (1 John 4:8). It should be clear to all that disciples must be people of love, but what does "love" mean?

 

            Love Demands That We Speak Truth, No Matter Who is Involved. One recurrent complaint from brethren who are teaching error, but who do not like being exposed as such, is that those who expose them are "lacking love," evidenced [?] by the fact they have been named as teachers of error. Let us not be fooled by this misdirection play, brethren; this is simply an attempt to deflect attention away from the error they are teaching and to convince others the real issue is their opponent's "lack of love" [as they now define "love"]. Friends and brethren, "love" does not mean we close our eyes to error and never call it what it is; if anything, true love compels us to tell them they are in error because we care for their souls!

 

            Consider Jesus [our supreme example of love]; did He ever name someone with a name that was unpleasant and offensive to them? Yes, He did--several times! Jesus called the Pharisees hypocrites because they were hypocrites (cf.Matt. 23)! Once, the disciples questioned Jesus after a severe rebuke, asking, "Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?" (Matt. 15:12). Jesus did not exclaim surprise at their offense, but further called them "blind leaders of the blind" (v. 14).

 

            Jesus did not hesitate to expose them, for many were following their ways and Jesus loved the people enough to tell them who these men really were so they would turn and follow truth. It did not matter that important men were offended, for God's love and truth were the overriding concerns.

 

            Love Consistently Adheres to God's Commands. While some are now trying to convince us love will often deviate from God's commands that it might be shown, such is simply a contradiction of terms! Logically considered, we would be in a paradox, trying to decide between "loving" someone [as God commanded us] or following God's commands! The fallacy of this attempt is that it pits God against Himself, or at least one command against another [love against obedience, when obedience is an expression of our love, John 14:15]. Knowing this, we should admit that this is a fallacious proposition, for God has not given contradictory instruction. If you hear men teaching that we must set aside God's plain teaching that we might show love, please realize the reality of what they are saying and see it for the error it is! God never expects His people to disobey one command that another might be kept.

 

            That said, it is incumbent upon us to understand what to do in certain situations. There are times when it seems we must "disobey" to exhibit love, but let's not go too far in trying to reconcile things. Often, we are tempted to set aside God's commands because we feel compassion for people in certain situations [divorced, in a bad marriage, worldly jobs, etc.], but difficult situations do not excuse disobedience; it demands a will to obey, no matter what the consequences. I understand the difficulties of many situations in which men are found, but I cannot set aside God's will to ease their pain; the only way I can know absolutely that I am acceptable to God is by adhering to His will. Often, we can demonstrate love in another way, without transgressing His will. Many times, love means making difficult choices or teaching difficult things and then helping others through those difficult times. Too often, though, man wants the "easy way out" of difficult situations and then looks for a way to justify his behavior after the fact. I believe a real demonstration of love is seen when a man will speak the hard truths and then stand with them and help them when those hard choices are made. That is true love!

 

            I am afraid many of the recent attempts to convince us "the guiding principle of love" should overrule all are often done to justify friends and family in sin. I have seen it more than I care to see and I know from experience that earthly relations are the greatest causes of disobedience among men, even those who are already believers.

 

            Let us resolve now to show real love. Let us speak the truth in love, but speak truth at all times and to all men. We do not set aside obedience to show love.

---Steven Harper

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