WHAT ABOUT LOVE?

Updated January 10, 2009 (Updated March 22, 2005; first published May 15, 1997) (David Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061, 866-295-4143, fbns@wayoflife.org) -

When Bible-believing Christians take the Word of God and measure leaders, churches, denominations and movements today by it, ecumenical types invariably charge them with a lack of love. For example, a woman wrote to me and said:

“You preach separatism. What about unity? You preach about heresy. WHAT ABOUT LOVE? ... From what I have viewed on your website, you hold your views as high as the Bible itself. What you call ‘zeal for the Bible’ I call arrogance and pride. If you knew the Bible as well as you claim, then I believe you’d live it. The lost will never be reached through such hatred” (Letter from a reader, May 1997).

This lady was upset about my preaching, but instead of explaining my alleged error carefully from the Bible, she charged me with a lack of love, and this, in spite of her own haughty and incredibly judgmental attitude toward me!

To this brainwashed generation, the negative aspects of biblical Christianity are unloving. To carefully test things by the Bible is unkind. To warn of false gospels is uncompassionate. To mark and avoid false teachers is mean-spirited. To preach high and holy standards of Christian living is legalist meanness.

A few years ago, Evangelist Jack Van Impe rejected biblical separatism and went over to the ecumenical philosophy. He said:

“Let’s forget our labels and come together in love, and the pope has called for that. I had 400 verses on love. Till I die I will proclaim nothing but love for all my brothers and sisters in Christ, my Catholic brothers and sisters, Protestant brothers and sisters, Christian Reformed, Lutherans, I don’t care what label you are. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples if ye have love one to another.”

This is the popular view of love, but it is false and dangerous.

ECUMENISTS ARE CONFUSED ABOUT THE DEFINITION OF LOVE

Love is crucial. The Bible says that without love “I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.” The Bible tells us that God is love, and those who know God will reflect His love.

What is love, though? The ecumenical world is confused about its definition. Love must be defined biblically. To human thinking, love is a warm feeling or a romantic thought. “Love,” to this ecumenical generation, is broadmindedness and non-judgmental tolerance of any one who claims to know the Lord Jesus Christ.

This is not what the Bible says about love. Consider the following verses of Holy Scripture:

“Jesus answered and said unto him, IF A MAN LOVE ME, HE WILL KEEP MY WORDS: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him” (John 14:23).

“And this I pray, that your LOVE MAY ABOUND YET MORE AND MORE IN KNOWLEDGE AND IN ALL JUDGMENT; That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ” (Philippians 1:9-10).

“For THIS IS THE LOVE OF GOD, THAT WE KEEP HIS COMMANDMENTS: and his commandments are not grievous” (1 John 5:3).

“And we have confidence in the Lord touching you, that ye both do and will do the things which we command you. And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ. Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us” (2 Thess. 3:4-6).

Biblical love is obedience to God and His Word. In the last passage cited we see that the love of God is sandwiched between two verses that emphasize obedience to God’s commandments, including separation from disobedient brethren!

Love is not a feeling. It is not blissful romanticism. It is not fuzzy toleration of things that are wrong. For a woman to love her husband means she submits to and serves him according to the Bible. For a man to love his wife means he treats her in the way the Bible commands. For children to love their parents means they honor and obey them as the Bible commands. Love is obedience to God’s Word.

Love is not an emotion. Emotions are unstable and undependable. Love is not broadmindedness. It is not non-judgmentalism. It is not non-critical tolerance. Biblical love is careful. It is based on the knowledge of God’s Word and is associated with the exercise of judgment. It proves all things and approves only those things that are the will of God.

Was the Lord Jesus Christ unloving when He called Peter a devil (Matt. 16:23) or when he publicly condemned the Pharisees (Matthew 23)? Was the apostle Paul unloving when he rebuked Peter for his compromise (Galatians 1)? Was the apostle Paul unloving when he named the name of false teachers and compromisers such as Hymenaeus and Alexander ten different times in the Pastoral Epistles? Was the apostle Paul unloving when he forbade women to preach or to usurp authority over men (1 Tim. 2:12) and required that they keep silent in the churches (1 Cor. 14:34)?

Biblical love does not mean that I ignore things that are wrong and injurious. To love a false teacher does not mean that I turn a blind eye to his error and strive to have unity with him regardless of his doctrine. It means that I obey the Bible and mark and avoid him (Romans 16:17), that I expose his error publicly to protect those who might be led astray by his teaching.

ECUMENISTS ARE CONFUSED ABOUT THE DIRECTION OF LOVE

Ecumenists are not only confused about the definition of love they are also confused about the direction of love.

THE FIRST DIRECTION OF LOVE MUST BE TOWARD GOD. Ecumenists talk much about love toward man, but what about love toward God? According to the Lord Jesus Christ, what is the greatest commandment?

“Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 22:35-39).

The first and great commandment is not to love one’s neighbor. That is the second commandment. The first and great commandment is to love the Lord God will all of one’s heart, soul, and mind.

Ecumenists point their fingers at the Bible-believing fundamentalist and charge him with a lack of love toward men because he exercises judgment and discipline and separation. What, though, about love for God? The ecumenist tells me that I need to love all the denominations regardless of what doctrine they teach. I reply that I need to love God and His Truth first, and that means that I will obey the Bible, and that means I will measure, mark, and avoid those who are committed to error.

A genuine love for God requires that I care more about His Word and His will than about men and their feelings and opinions and programs.

We agree with Charles Haddon Spurgeon when he said: “On all hands we hear cries for unity in this, and unity in that; but to our mind the main need of this age is not compromise, but conscientiousness. ‘First pure, then peaceable.’ It is easy to cry ‘a confederacy,’ but that union which is not based upon the truth of God is rather a conspiracy than a communion. Charity by all means; but honesty also. Love, of course, but love to God as well as love to men, and love of truth as well as love of union. It is exceedingly difficult in these times to preserve one’s fidelity before God and one’s fraternity among men. Should not the former be preferred to the latter if both cannot be maintained? We think so” (Spurgeon, “The Down Grade - Second Article,”
The Sword and the Trowel, April 1887, Notes, p. 16).

THE DIRECTION OF LOVE NOT ONLY MUST BE TOWARD GOD BUT IT MUST BE TOWARD THOSE WHO ARE IN DANGER. The ecumenical crowd tells me that I need to love the Modernist and the Romanist, etc., but they are practically silent on the subject of love for those who are deceived by the Modernist and the Romanist. We are charged with being unloving, for example, when we expose the fact that John Paul II or Mother Teresa preached a false sacramental gospel. The fact is that we love people enough to warn of false gospels so they will not be led astray to eternal hell.

A shepherd who loves wolves more than the sheep is a confused and wicked shepherd.

In conclusion, we quote from the words of James Henley Thornwell, a staunch Old School Presbyterian preacher who fought against theological modernism in the 19th century. He was the sixth president of South Carolina College (today the University of South Carolina). He was weary with the compromised evangelicals of his day, who said they loved the truth but were soft in their stance and refused to withstand heresy boldly. Note his powerful words and his understanding of true biblical love:

“To employ soft words and honeyed phrases in discussing questions of everlasting importance; to deal with errors that strike at the foundations of all human hope as if they were harmless and venial mistakes; to bless where God disapproves, and to make apologies where He calls us to stand up like men and assert, though it may be the aptest method of securing popular applause in a sophistical age, is cruelty to man and treachery to Heaven. Those who on such subjects attach more importance to the rules of courtesy than they do to the measures of truth do not defend the citadel, but betray it into the hands of its enemies. Love for Christ, and for the souls for whom He died, will be the exact measure of our zeal in exposing the dangers by which men’s souls are ensnared” (quoted in a sermon by George Sayles Bishop, author of The Doctrines of Grace and Kindred Themes, 1910).