I was browsing Facebook recently and came across one of those “________ changed his cover photo” posts that displayed the following new cover photo.
Due to the reference to “MY Bible” set against a rainbow flag known primarily as meaning the LGBTQ community, it raised questions in this old guy’s mind, but not about God’s commandment to love others. Let me explain.
The author of the FB post was a Jewish military Chaplain, with whom I had a pleasant online conversation. The unstated reference was to the recent mass shooting here in Colorado Springs at a night club (the “Q Club”) catering to those identifying as part of the LGBTQ community, a fact which I did not know when I first saw the post.
Obviously the “MY Bible” was a reference to books of the Old Testament and not the New testament. I’m not sure why he felt the need for emphasizing the Bible he reads as an observant Jew because the NT also tells us to love our “neighbors”. In fact, in the books of Matthew and Luke there’s are passages quoting the Shema “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:4–5), both of which add the commandment to love our neighbors. (Matthew 22:37-39 & Luke 10:27).
What I wanted to gently clarify was the Chaplain’s position concerning the sinful lifestyles represented by the rainbow flag, so I replied to his post with the question: “Sir, Do you hate what God hates?” I probably flunked the “gentle” part, which led to further discussion with him, which, to a degree, clarified some things for me..
So here is the critical issue, from my point of view. I saw a message that could be, and is often misunderstood to mean that loving one’s neighbors also means approving or accepting of lifestyles that God unequivocally calls sin. It was posted by a military Chaplain. The message however, was, as I see it thr0ugh a Christian lens, was incomplete.
Those engaging in what God considers sin will call those who want to “love the sinner but hate the sin” (hate what God hates) will accuse anyone who disapproves of their behavior of hating them personally. As a result, some of us, and even entire churches, will, for a number of reasons, refuse to confront issues of sin. I’m not just talking about LGBTQ issues, although it is front page news again.
The excuses (yes, I said “excuses”) for minimizing sin are many, and quite “creative”. I’m not going to name any of them, but I do know that the Bible tells me that sinners love their sin (John 3:19) and I know that telling someone that what they love is wrong doesn’t go over very well. So we focus on the “love” of God, thinking that when people know how much God loves them they will run to the cross. We try and remove the “offense” of the Cross, that by nature offends those who do not yet believe in Christ (1 Cor 1:18).
I submit to you, dear friends that to minimize the issue of sin, whatever it might be, is to minimize the Gospel of Christ. And I submit to you that a minimized gospel is no gospel at all.
The Apostle Paul told young Pastor Timothy:
“This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” (1 Tim 1:15).
Paul also defined very clearly the Gospel message of which he was not ashamed (Rom 1:16) and not afraid to preach:
“Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, .” (1 Cor 15:1-4)
My friends, if, for the sake of sounding loving and not being rejected as “haters”, we omit the issue of sin from our sharing of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, can we claim to be sharing the the message that saves sinners, no matter what the sin? The Apostle Paul answers that question quite clearly:
“I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.” (Gal 1:6-9)
My brothers and sisters, let us indeed love our neighbors and demonstrate that love most supremely by sharing the complete gospel with those who live apart from Christ, with His love in our hearts! We don’t need to send mixed messages. If God has opened a heart to pay attention to the gospel we share, the gospel that is offensive to an unregenerate heart, salvation will surely follow!