The Truth About Love

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Sunday, September 8, 2019 0 comments

by Logan Ames

Without a doubt, love is one of the most talked about subjects in the Bible. This makes perfect sense when we consider what else the Bible says. In 1 Corinthians 13:13, Paul declares, “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love." One reason why it’s the greatest is that 1 John 4:16 tells us, “God is love." No single word can truly sum up the Creator of the universe, but perhaps “love” comes the closest to doing so. Jesus spoke of love often. He told Nicodemus that God loved the world so much that He willingly gave up His only begotten Son so that anyone who believes in Him could have everlasting life (John 3:16). He told His disciples that “laying down one’s life for his friends” is the greatest love (John 15:13). And of course, Jesus summed up the entire Law and Prophets by saying that the two greatest commandments were to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-40). These passages reveal just a fraction of the truth about love according to the whole counsel of Scripture. Yet, there is probably no subject about which true followers of Jesus are lectured more than love.

Because the world grossly misunderstands and misrepresents love and then points at those of us who adhere to Biblical teaching and refers to us as “not very loving," it is appropriate for me to end my current series on the Book of James - and my Worldview Warriors writings for now - with a post about Christian love, as the New Testament writers saw it. Since most of you who have faithfully read my posts and supported me over the years do not know, this is my last weekly post for Worldview Warriors. I’ve been blessed to be with the organization since 2011 when I lived in Ohio and have written over 300 weekly posts. After taking one previous break, I returned to writing weekly almost exactly two years ago after my wife and I moved to Pennsylvania and I accepted a full-time pastor position. Since then, I’ve learned and lived the stress of full-time ministry, both on myself and my family, my wife and I bought our first house, and we’ve welcomed our precious daughter (now almost 15 months old) into the world. On top of all this, we anticipate more ministry and family opportunities in the future, so it is time once again for me to step away from writing weekly. I need to be focusing my efforts on showing the true love of Christ to my family and those in my current community and ministry context. I will leave the door open regarding lesser involvement with Worldview Warriors going forward, so you may still hear my name or see me around. For now, though, I bid you farewell with this post and I thank you for your support and encouragement.

It just so happens that James wraps up his letter to the early church by talking about true love, though it is not obvious at first glance. In James 5:19-20, he writes, “My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins." While the word “love” is nowhere to be found in these verses, there is no question in my mind that James “knows what love is” (cue the Forrest Gump line). It’s interesting that he chooses a specific phrase when addressing accountability and repentance, that the one who holds a person accountable and helps them repent “covers over a multitude of sins." You’re probably wondering where else you’ve heard that phrase, and I’m here to remind you that it’s exactly what love does. Peter, another early church leader, wrote, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). We can be certain that James and Peter knew each other as leaders and spokesmen for the assembly of believers (Acts 15:6-21). While James does not use the word “love” in his final thoughts where he urges the brothers and sisters to turn each other back to the truth, there is no doubt in my mind that he is promoting sharing the truth in love.

In a world where it is constantly hammered into us that refusing to condone one’s selfish or evil behavior is akin to not loving them, the truth about love that James and Peter express needs to be promoted. In a world where those of us who acknowledge sin according to God’s Word are considered by many to be hateful, bigoted, and out of touch with Jesus, we must be willing to turn one another away from behaviors that lead to destruction and toward righteousness. Refusing to do so is refusing to love each other with the truth. Paul says that “love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:6). When I point out a sinful behavior that is being widely accepted in the church, I’ve heard other pastors tell me that “Jesus would love these people, not condemn them." It is true that Jesus does love all sinners, including you and me. But this argument is used to insinuate that Jesus doesn’t approve of Christians addressing sin directly when speaking to the sinner. It’s an argument that completely ignores the story of the woman caught in adultery in John 8:1-11. Jesus shows us that it is possible to love someone, refuse to condemn them as people, and still acknowledge that their behavior is sinful. When all the Pharisees and hypocrites just want to stone the woman, Jesus sends them away and then chooses to let the woman go, but not before He commands her, “Go now and leave your life of sin” (v. 11). If He said, “Go now and keep doing what you did before, even though it will ultimately destroy you," He wouldn’t have been speaking the truth in love.

Getting back to the closing words of James’ letter, it is clear that he is writing about Christians who fall away, not those who have never known true freedom and righteousness in Jesus. He addresses brothers and sisters, then writes, “If one of you should wander from the truth…" James is not advocating for Christians to go around and hammer a lost world regarding their sins. That’s not very loving. If someone does not know Jesus, we should assume they are caught up in sin because they have yet to experience freedom from it. However, WITHIN the church, sin should always be addressed. Paul declares this truth in 1 Corinthians 5:12. James has already supported in his letter the resistance toward sin and the confession of it, so now he encourages repentance from it. He recognizes that when we are caught in sin, it is more that we “wander from the truth” without even realizing it than a deliberate decision to reject the truth. This is why we desperately need other Christians who can see with clearer eyes to point it out to us. It is popular to talk about how this must be done in love, and I agree. But so often people determine whether it’s being done in love by how it makes them FEEL. That’s not reality. None of us celebrate the exposure of our sin. It hurts. It feels awful. But it MUST, because Godly sorrow is the only way we’ll come to repentance and never look back (2 Corinthians 7:10).

My friends, I’m leaving you with this post regarding the truth about love because I believe there is nothing more important to the success of the church’s efforts to impact the world for Jesus today. Don’t ever be afraid to look at a brother or sister in Christ who is caught up in sin and address it with them. Don’t ever be ashamed to admit your own sin and allow someone else to hold you accountable for it. This is VITAL to our mission in the world. Yes, you have to consider if what you’re doing and saying is loving. But that has more to do with your own motives and potential hypocrisy than it does how the other person feels. People in the church will tell you to mind your own business and to stay out of theirs. But don’t allow their rejection of you to keep you from doing what James, Peter, and Jesus all agree is LOVE. Remember that to “turn a sinner from the error of their way” will rarely be a quick fix. You’ll need to build loving relationships, you’ll need to allow them to walk away from you, and you’ll need to love and forgive them even after they falter yet again, which means you’ll start back at square one addressing the sin. These are all the things that Jesus does for us. His blood, His truth, and His love for us have already covered the multitude of our sins. Go and do likewise for one another. God bless you all!

This forum is meant to foster discussion and allow for differing viewpoints to be explored with equal and respectful consideration.  All comments are moderated and any foul language or threatening/abusive comments will not be approved.  Users who engage in threatening or abusive comments which are physically harmful in nature will be reported to the authorities.