Tag Archives: God

Loving People Despite Their Behavior

Loving people is hard, and it’s a struggle to do it well. If you haven’t found it difficult to love, at one point in time or another, you’re probably doing it wrong. Because loving people, especially when they’re behaving sinfully, is hard.

People by virtue are sinful, and sinful people make for difficult objects of love. Even regenerate sinners, God bless them, are difficult. (Maybe a little easier than non-believers? But hard to love nonetheless!)

The challenge of love is compounded when the people you’re trying to love are apathetic or even hateful towards you. The typical response given by society, and an extremely appealing solution, is to only love those who love you in return and to cut everyone else away. It is easy to be drawn by this idea, yet it is sinful to the core—for it stands against God’s second greatest command: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” I like the way Paul Tripp put it when he said, “If we only love our neighbor when he or she loves us in return, we’re not loving our neighbors, just ourselves.”

Most of us find it difficult to love unconditionally because love is treated like a bank account. People have to deposit into our banks, love, kindness, and charity, if they hope to receive the same kind of treatment in turn. The people with whom we’re frustrated and have a hard time loving are those people who haven’t deposited anything into our account. Their funds have run dry. Yet God would say to you and me, “love them anyway and put it on my account.”

Unconditional love is possible as we recognize what God has done for us. It is that realization that empowers us to love others unconditionally. God’s bank account from which we draw is infinite. He never withholds His grace or forgiveness, and “while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” Paying the ultimate price. God’s love was not contingent upon our behavior, if it were then we would never receive it.

When we love the undeserving, it’s a picture of Christ’s love. It’s a love that doesn’t make sense to the world. It’s a love that is unmerited. Because for Christians, their love should come from God, freely given as it is freely received.

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Are Christians Who Disapprove of Homosexuality Bigots?

There is a growing number of Christians who feel that refusing to accept a homosexual’s lifestyle is an act of hatred. Those who consider homosexual behavior as immoral aren’t “loving their neighbor.” After all, if we claim to love someone, shouldn’t we just accept the decisions that they make?

On the surface, it seems that to “love” means to accept the lifestyle choice of same-sex individuals. Yet, when God’s Word shines its light on this issue, our acceptance of homosexuality proves to be hatred and an absolute disregard for life.

Imagine visiting a doctor. He tells you that you’re healthy but the truth is that you are dying of a disease. He doesn’t tell you that you’re dying because he is trying to spare your feelings. How egregious is his malpractice? A person is dying and the doctor cares more about feelings than actually dealing with the issue at hand.

When Christians tell anyone that their sinful lifestyle, which is explicitly condemned in the Bible, is acceptable to God, they in actuality are showing hatred by approving of what ultimately leads to judgment. Isn’t that similar to how Satan tempted Eve in the garden saying, “You shall not surely die . . .” It’s a error of biblical proportions that people can break God’s Law without suffering the penalty that is due.

For example, the biblical warnings in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. Do we not take them seriously?

1 Corinthians 6:9-11

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Paul contrasts what the believers used to practice as a normal part of their life. But their conversion and regeneration in the Spirit meant that these are no longer normal practices. It’s not to say they were sinless or never struggled with their old life. But they never accepted it as a part of normal Christian living!

In Romans 1:32, after Paul had outlined the progression of depravity that defined mankind, including homosexuality (v. 26-27), he makes this stark judgment:

32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

Paul condemns with equal force those who practice this evil and those who approve of it.

By giving approval to sin, we are saying that sin is “okay” with God, He’ll tolerate it. They are both lies. Sin is heinous to God, so much so that He had to pay the ultimate price—dying for it on the cross.

We show love to people not by approving of their sin, which leads to judgment, but by showing them the Savior of the Bible, Who died for the sins of world, so that men and women in bondage to sin could be free and live in newness of life.

How to Deal with Criticism?

Have you ever noticed that people have opinions on just about everything? This includes the big and little decisions we make in our lives. Some argue that what people say is irrelevant. These individuals may often shrug their shoulders to any and all criticism. On the other hand, there are those who live life crippled by the opinions and disapproval of others, constantly thinking of what (insert important person) says about them. There are consequences that follow from either extreme. It is only when we recognize the approval that comes from God that we can find a balanced approach that avoids both extremes.

Don’t Close Your Eyes to Criticism

Taking criticism is hard. No one enjoys being confronted in areas of weakness, especially when it’s done the wrong way. However, when we ignore criticism we do so at our own expense. We all have our blind spots and pitfalls, and if ignored they will lead to unnecessary pain.

[Whenever Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower was about to implement a plan, he would always take the plan to his greatest critics to examine. His critics, of course, would usually proceed to tear his plan apart showing him why it would never work.

Someone asked him why he wasted his time showing it to a group of critics instead of taking it to advisors who were sympathetic to his ideas. He answered, “Because my critics help me find the weaknesses in the plan so I can correct them.”

In the same way, God uses the judgmental person to reveal our blind spots so we can make the necessary changes. If we truly want to be pleasing to the Lord, we will accept the exposure of our faults so we can correct them, even if the revelation comes from a hateful person.]

~Kent Crockett

This begs the question, whose criticism matters?

The people that give good criticism are the people that know us well and “do life” with us. (I know the phrase “do life” is a cliché but it’s true.) Those who spend time with us are able to see exactly where we fall short and our areas of improvement. It is important to reflect on their feedback and think through how we are showing Christ in our lives.

As we reflect on the criticism we receive, we are able to distinguish between good and bad criticism. Sometimes the criticism is based on a faulty worldview and is given for the wrong reasons. There are even times when people misinterpret a situation or play the part of God – making judgments on what God only knows i.e. the motives of the heart. Regardless of what the situation may be, we wash away the dirt and take the nugget. If there is no nugget, we are no better or worse for having checked.

Four Helpful Suggestions

Here are four helpful suggestions from Bible.org on handling criticism:

    1. Commit the matter instantly to God, asking Him to remove all resentment or counter-criticism on your part and teach you the needed lessons.
    2. Remember that we are all great sinners and that the one who has criticized us does not begin to know the worst about us.
    3. If you have made a mistake or committed a sin, humbly and frankly confess it to God and to anyone you may have injured.
    4. Be willing to learn afresh that you are not infallible and that you need God’s grace and wisdom every moment of the day to keep on the straight path.

People Do Not Define Us

It is also possible to be so consumed by criticism that we allow it to define us. We can care so much about what people think that God’s view of our lives is peripheral. We should always remember that what God has to say is what is ultimately important. People are flawed and they only have glimpses of our lives. Paul, when he was criticized for his ministry, responded by saying, “Therefore, we have as our ambition whether at home or absent to be pleasing to Him, for we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body whether good or bad (2 Cor 5:9-10).” Paul pretty much says, I’m aiming to please God and that’s Who we will ultimately stand before.

Steven C. Roy tells a fictional story of a superb violinist who had a fear of large crowds and so avoided giving concerts. In response to overwhelming criticism, the musician decided to hold a concert in the largest hall in London.

The young violinist came onto the stage and sat alone on a stool. She put her violin under her chin and played for an hour and a half. No music in front of her, no orchestra behind her, no breaks—just an hour and a half of absolutely beautiful violin music. After ten minutes or so, many critics put down their pads and listened, like the rest….

After the performance, the crowd rose to its feet and began applauding wildly—and they wouldn’t stop.

But the young violinist didn’t acknowledge the applause. She just peered out into the audience as if she were looking for something—or someone. Finally she found what she was looking for. Relief came over her face, and she began to acknowledge the cheers.

After the concert, the critics met the young violinist backstage…. They said, “You were wonderful. But one question: Why did it take you so long to acknowledge the applause of the audience?”

The young violinist took a deep breath and answered, “You know I was really afraid of playing here. Yet this was something I knew I needed to do. Tonight, just before I came on stage, I received word that my master teacher was to be in the audience.”

“Throughout the concert, I tried to look for him, but I could never find him. So after I finished playing, I started to look more intently. I was so eager to find my teacher that I couldn’t even hear the applause. I just had to know what he thought of my playing. That was all that mattered.”

“Finally, I found him high in the balcony. He was standing and applauding, with a big smile on his face. After seeing him, I was finally able to relax. I said to myself, ‘If the master is pleased with what I have done, then everything else is okay.'”

While we may get constructive or destructive criticism from others, we must always remember that our Master is the final judge on the matter and we will stand before Him on the Day of Judgment. It is His opinion of what we do that ultimately matters (2 Cor 5:9).

True Love Judges

When you think of judgment, what words come to mind? Christians, religion, church? I’m sure that “love” was not the first word that popped into your head. The words “love” and “judgment” in our minds mesh as well as oil and water. They seem to be an unrelated pair. However, the paradox is that love exists only when there is true judgment.

Michael Ramsden from Oxford articulates it this way:

Love doesn’t exist in the absence of judgment, but in the presence of it. What makes the words “I love you” meaningful is when it is spoken by someone who has truly judged you, and knows you completely. This is the way God loves us. He knows what is going on in our hearts and [despite the junk] He loves us.

Love and judgment in this context provides us with great comfort. God knows all our flaws, weaknesses and sins, yet He still loves us. His love is not conditional.

Knowledge of a person always involves judgment; judgment about their character, actions, beliefs and values. I cannot love what I do not know. And I cannot know without making judgments. Love only exists when there is true judgment. How beautiful it is then that God has judged us.