True, biblical love is lacking within the Christian church today. Truth is there but love is not in many places. Christians place such an emphasis on truth that they forget love.
Just think of the first verse in 1 Corinthians 13: “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” Insert something else at first like: “If I believe in substitutionary atonement, but have not love, I am a noisy going or a clanging cymbal.” In other words, we may believe the right things, but we’re also obnoxious because our speech is not “seasoned with salt” (Colossians 4:6). Our odious behavior drowns out our knowledge. Nobody cares to listen because we come across so condescending. Our words show that we don’t really love them but just want to hear ourselves talk.
If we don’t have love, we are nothing. All of our knowledge, whit, and deep theological discussions mean nothing if we don’t display the love of Jesus. Who are we trying to impress? God is certainly not impressed.
Christians are so disgruntled with the world’s redefinition of love that they’ve strayed so far away from it and missed the biblical definition as well. Just as people make a god in their own image, many Christians make up their own definition of love. As a result, many churches are spilling over with Christians who know about God but don’t know God.
Make no mistake: our society does, in fact, have a distorted view of love. It’s a love that is merely an emotion and is depicted as something that ebbs and flows. We say, “I love you,” to others but rarely mean it because our actions don’t back it up. It’s analogous to one of the Christmas episodes of The Office where Michael Scott says: “Presents are the best way to show someone you care. It is like this tangible thing that you can point to and say, ‘Hey man, I love you this-many-dollars’ worth.’”
To be sure: The Office is my favorite show of all time; my wife and I watch it on repeat. But what Michael said is obviously hilarious because that’s not what it means to love others.
Moreover, we’ve convinced ourselves that we truly love others, but in reality we miss the mark many times—the simple definition of sin. One of the most unsavory things we can do is be a complete nincompoop to somebody and then say, “I am saying all this in love.” I alluded to this earlier. This is a famous Christian cop-out so that Christians can be insensitive to others and then pretend we’re being loving.
The frustrating thing is we know the biblical definition of love and still struggle with displaying it. It’s frightening because we’re all capable of this madness. We’re all capable of believing one thing and doing another. Accompanied by repentance, this is simply a key part of the Christian life. Christians need to repent daily. We will go through times when we don’t love very well. Other times, loving people will come more naturally. That is simply the up-and-down ride of the Christian life.
Why do we do this? The aching cry of our sin-stained hearts is the need to love all people, yet when it comes to real life, we stumble. Why, oh why, does this happen?
To put it succinctly: sin. Our sin gets in the way. Whether we have a natural inclination to be abrasive, cynical, or insensitive—these things are difficult to mortify if we don’t actively strive, by the Spirit, to put those things to death (Romans 8:13). When cynicism is our normal, we should pray to the Lord to change our normal to compassion.
Christians must strive daily to kill the sin in their hearts that causes them not to love like Jesus loves. If we don’t, we will have an ineffective witness.
This article has been adapted from my book Gospel Smugness: Displaying Christlike Character in Evangelism.
Would you like to support me? You can become a patron!