I’ve written a lot lately about Love. My focus has been on the unconditional love that the Bible says we owe to every human being. There is no question that many of us have difficulty loving some classes of persons, like people who live so-called “alternate lifestyles,” or people who hold different moral beliefs than ourselves, or people who have declared they are our enemies. But there are just as many of us who use love as an excuse for our silence in some cases, and for our rude or judgmental words in others.
“Make up your mind!” you might say. “When I see someone involved in bad or dangerous behavior, do you want me to warn them and try to initiate corrective action, or do you want me to remain silent?” That’s where the godly virtue of wisdom plays such an important part in the Christian walk. But before we talk about that, let’s explore some of the circumstances “when love becomes an excuse.”
Love as an excuse for Silence
Those of us who use love to excuse our silence usually have good intentions. We just want to avoid hurting the feelings of one or more persons we’re close to or we don’t want to risk severing the relationship we have with them. But what does God say about this? According to the Apostle Paul, one of the most important reasons God gave us a written record of His Word was because it “is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” So following our Creator’s example, when we have knowledge that another human being is doing or saying something that is going to be harmful to either themselves or others, and/or that is contrary to God’s moral law, we too have an obligation to reprove, correct, instruct and warn both the perpetrator and anyone who is or will be directly affected. Love must never be used as an excuse for silence in these instances.
Church leaders often fall into the trap of silence as well. In many cases it’s because they don’t want to risk offending some in their congregations. But didn’t Jesus tell His followers to expect people to be offended by our words, as long as our words align with His Word. “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.” Agape love always speaks the truth with honor for the person who needs to hear it. Too often the rebellious behavior that they are engaged in has been approved by our culture and even our civil laws. While that may make our task of acquainting them with truth more difficult, we must not allow even that to stop us from speaking truth to them.
I think this is what led one of my Pastors recently to say that God had spoken the following word: “No more nice Church.” It’s easy to like a “nice” person or follow a “nice” leader who says everything we want them to say, who doesn’t make us feel uncomfortable with our self-centered lives. “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” The role of the Body of Christ is to accept people as they come to Christ, but to not leave them in that same condition. We are to help them heal spiritually, emotionally and physically and to help them mature in the things and knowledge of God. And this can only be done through sharing the truth revealed by God in His written Word and unmasking the lies of the enemy of God that are intended to enslave, steal from and destroy every living soul.
Love as an excuse for rudeness, judgment, jealousy or gossip
Contrast the above with those of us who use love as an excuse for our own exhibition of rudeness, judgment, jealousy or gossip. These are more often driven by self-righteousness as opposed to God’s righteousness. It’s easily recognizable, for it typically leads off with something like, “I’m sorry I have to tell you this but….” These are times that silence would be the better choice.
Before ever expressing righteous indignation at bad behavior, every Christian needs to first assess the condition of his or her own heart. To know the condition of your heart with respect to the person(s) and the situation at hand you need to ask yourself several questions.
1. What is my true motive? Am I moved by a desire to see the person’s life and circumstances improved or do I want them to feel humiliated? Do I desire that God be glorified or that I be made to feel more important?
2. If my words will bring reproof, am I willing to be measured by the same standards that I use to measure others by?
3. How likely is it that my words and follow on actions will yield fruit (value) in another’s life? Will my words be encouraging? Will they provide a path to improvement or safe haven? Am I willing to walk beside them on the path that I’ve suggested for them?
Seek Wisdom to guide your tongue
Answering these questions honestly will shield you from using love as an excuse to criticize and berate others. Neither will you be fearful and silent about sharing the knowledge God has given you to help others become the persons they were created to be. Instead, your focus will be on respecting and blessing others and seeing God’s will done in each person’s life. All that remains then is to be guided by wisdom in knowing when and how to communicate Truth.