The gospel message of Jesus is about love. God is love, and God wants us to reflect this reality to the world around us. But while Christians have been taught this simple reality for years, it’s easy to complicate the love of God. Here are five common ways we continually mess it up.
1. By Idolizing Theology
If theology doesn’t help you love God and love others more passionately — you’re doing it wrong.
Unfortunately, too many Christians, pastors, theologians, churches, and institutions use theology to withhold the love of God. They idolize theories, formulas, ideas, doctrines, translations, interpretations, and denominations instead of loving their own neighbors as they would themselves (Matt. 22:39).
Suddenly, instead of looking at people with a Christ-like love, we start judging them. We ask ourselves: Are they sinning? Are they going to hell? Are their beliefs absolutely correct? Subtly, we start putting qualifications and limitations on our love, categorizing others and wondering if they even deserve to be loved — they do!
The Bible is divinely inspired to point us to God and isn’t meant to be an academic textbook creating divisions, rifts, and distracting analysis. Don’t let your study of God devolve into an obsession over data, facts, and information, turning into pride, judgment, and a way to alienate others — make it about strengthening your relationship with Jesus.
By doing this, we can achieve what Jesus continually preached was most important: loving God and loving others.
Many people exploit the Bible to furiously cast judgment on others — sinfully using condemnation, guilt, shame, fear, and hatred to abuse others — all under the guise of “accountability” and the false premise of “Christianity.”
But according to the Bible, various people were used by God to do amazing things, and these individuals were often described as righteous and holy … even though they were dramatically flawed.
To be human is to be imperfect, and although we shouldn’t glorify sin or purposefully live in sin, we need to be careful about labeling others at “heretics,” “unbelievers,” and “sinners.” Because in reality, contrary to everything we assume, those whom we detest just might be favored by God.
Sinful attributes and misdeeds don’t disqualify you from a life of holiness, righteousness, and Godliness, but we often treat people as such — and condemn them to an eternity in hell. But according to the Bible, you might be a ‘Christian’ even if …
I spent last Saturday walking around Anthem, Ariz. It’s a strip of outlet malls and a Wal-Mart 30 miles north of Phoenix in the desert, and it’s as bad as it sounds. It’s hot and boring, and I was walking around all day because my new truck was broken and the mechanic wasn’t going to get to it until Monday. And it was going to cost $1,600 … which I don’t have. So I walked around and felt miserable and it sucked in a Big Way.
Saturday night my friend drove 30 miles to come and pick me up. He let me eat dinner at his house, and his mom made steak and it was delicious. I got a ride back home with some other friends that night, and for the rest of the weekend, I was driven around by my girlfriend. In addition to this, my family lent me money. Some family gave me money. I was stranded in Anthem, Ariz., where I didn’t know anybody and didn’t have any money in my bank account and I was worried and bored and scared, and maybe I cried a little bit. But I talked to my family and my friends on the phone and they helped me. They cared for me. And they are still caring for me.
I don’t have a hard life and I’m grateful for that, but in this time of mini-crisis, the people who love me have gone out of their way to care of me. They’ve asked me exactly what I needed and given it to me without thinking twice. In some cases, they’ve seen that I’m too proud (or stupid) to ask for what I need and given it to me anyway. And it has punched me in the stomach. It is humbling and it is touching, and it makes me want to be a better person.
You see, Christian brothers and sisters, that’s what caring looks like.
One of my favorite quotes of 2013 comes from Pope Francis. Asked what he would say about a member of the Catholic clergy who is gay, he responded with a question of his own.
“Who am I to judge?” Francis replied.
A good question for all of us, no?
Our world is inundated with judgment. Social media can be a swamp of it. Recently, a television celebrity was judgmental about those who are different from him and got in trouble for it. Many defended his judgmental attitude and words.
Which raises some important questions for all of us: Is it good to be judgmental? Isn’t life about making judgment calls and living by our values? Aren’t we all judgmental in some ways?
We all make judgments every day, decisions about what we think is best to do in the various circumstances of our lives. We might see someone in need and decide to help. We might recognize one of our shortcomings and decide we’ll change. We might run into an unforeseen challenge and try to figure out the best way to respond.
That’s all well and good.
Being judgmental is a very different thing.