We Are Called To Love Whom?

It might have been noticed that most of the passages quoted on the previous page refer to loving brothers and sisters, or to loving ‘one another’. That raises a question: Are Christians called to love one another but not called to love non-Christians? Have we made a mistake by including this topic under the heading “How Should The Church Respond To Those Outside?”? The Christian community is to be characterised by love. The love within the community is to be stunning, a demonstration of the Kingdom of God. The wider community said of the early church “See how they love one another!” There is a particular call to model sacrificial love within the community. Galatians 6:10 makes that explicit. Galatians 6:10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to  the family of believers. Priority is given to love within the Christian community but it is not limited to that. Paul said, “Let us do good to all people.” Jesus gave very radical commands: Matthew 5:43-48 43  ‘You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.”  44  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,  45  that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.  46  If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?  47  And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48  Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. The command is radical: We are to love even our enemies. The rationale is that we are to imitate the character of God and He is explicitly said to cause the sun to shine and the rain to fall on both the righteous and the unrighteous. Loving those who love us is not exceptional. Even the godless do that. Christians are to be different. Luke 6:27-36 contains a similar but different passage. Luke emphasises doing good to those who oppose and hurt us, and responding to hurtful actions in the opposite spirit: blessing those who curse us, turning the other cheek when we have been slapped once, not demanding back what has been taken from us, etc. We need to be careful not to be overly simplistic about this and feel that we are to become doormats. On the other hand, we should not rationalise it away. Jesus taught a very radical type of love. Paul continues the teaching in Romans 12 Romans 12:14-21 14  Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.  15  Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.  16  Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. 17  Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.  18  If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.  19  Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’  says the Lord. 20  On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him;     if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ 21  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. See also 1 Peter 3:8-22. Jesus provides the ultimate example of not retaliating and not hating those who treated Him so shamefully, even praying for them while He died (Luke 23:34). Jesus’ ministry also demonstrated God’s graciousness to both the righteous and the unrighteous. He did not spend His time only with those who were His; those who had responded to Him. One has to wonder how any would respond to Him if He had not mixed with the unrighteous. Indeed, He was infamous for being a friend of tax collectors and sinners (Matthew 11:19; Luke 7:34). He explicitly said that he had come for those very people. When He ate with tax collectors and sinners, in Matthew’s house, after He had called Matthew, the Pharisees objected. Matthew 9:11-13 11  When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ 12  On hearing this, Jesus said, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but those who are ill.  13   But go and learn what this means: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’ On the other hand, this should not be understood to mean that Jesus was weak and sentimental and only nice to people. It is very apparent that He was not. He criticised the Pharisees in ways that startle us (especially Matthew 23). He used physical violence against the money-changers in the Temple. He criticised whole cities that did not repent. Matthew 11:20-24 20  Then Jesus began to denounce the towns in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent.  21  ‘Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.  22  But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades. For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day.  24  But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.’ God is undoubtedly loving and He does give graciously to the righteous and the unrighteous but that only reinforces the reality that there are both righteous and unrighteous people. Ultimately, the unrighteous will be judged. Jesus did not avoid talking about judgement. On the contrary, He mentioned it often. His love is seen in the fact that He didn’t want people to suffer judgement and He warned them against it. His love is seen even more in the fact that He died that people might not have to experience judgement. He Himself paid the price. Romans 5:6-8 6  You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  7  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die.  8  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. It was while we were still sinners that Christ died for us. If people will not repent and receive the salvation Jesus offers, Jesus give us that choice and we must take the responsibility. Jesus has done everything necessary other than force us to accept it. His love for us is such that, despite His desire that everyone come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9), He gives us free will. What is the significance of all this for this discussion? Christians are to love sinners just like Jesus did and therefore Christians are to love practising homosexuals. There are two sides to that love. It is to be radically sacrificial and intensely practical but God-like love is not sentimental or politically correct. It will also confront and challenge and warn. In fact, concern for people’s salvation will be motivation to love in ways that do confront, challenge and warn.

Related pages

© 2017 Peter Cheyne
A Christian’s Guide To Homosexuality
Truth In Love
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We Are Called To Love

Whom?

It might have been noticed that most of the passages quoted on the previous page refer to loving brothers and sisters, or to loving ‘one another’. That raises a question: Are Christians called to love one another but not called to love non-Christians? Have we made a mistake by including this topic under the heading “How Should The Church Respond To Those Outside?”? The Christian community is to be characterised by love. The love within the community is to be stunning, a demonstration of the Kingdom of God. The wider community said of the early church “See how they love one another!” There is a particular call to model sacrificial love within the community. Galatians 6:10 makes that explicit. Galatians 6:10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to  those who belong to the family of believers. Priority is given to love within the Christian community but it is not limited to that. Paul said, “Let us do good to all people.” Jesus gave very radical commands: Matthew 5:43-48 43  ‘You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.”  44  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,  45  that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.  46  If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?  47  And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48  Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. The command is radical: We are to love even our enemies. The rationale is that we are to imitate the character of God and He is explicitly said to cause the sun to shine and the rain to fall on both the righteous and the unrighteous. Loving those who love us is not exceptional. Even the godless do that. Christians are to be different. Luke 6:27-36 contains a similar but different passage. Luke emphasises doing good to those who oppose and hurt us, and responding to hurtful actions in the opposite spirit: blessing those who curse us, turning the other cheek when we have been slapped once, not demanding back what has been taken from us, etc. We need to be careful not to be overly simplistic about this and feel that we are to become doormats. On the other hand, we should not rationalise it away. Jesus taught a very radical type of love. Paul continues the teaching in Romans 12 Romans 12:14-21 14  Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.  15  Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.  16  Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. 17  Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.  18  If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.  19  Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. 20   On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him;     if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ 21  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. See also 1 Peter 3:8-22. Jesus provides the ultimate example of not retaliating and not hating those who treated Him so shamefully, even praying for them while He died (Luke 23:34). Jesus’ ministry also demonstrated God’s graciousness to both the righteous and the unrighteous. He did not spend His time only with those who were His; those who had responded to Him. One has to wonder how any would respond to Him if He had not mixed with the unrighteous. Indeed, He was infamous for being a friend of tax collectors and sinners (Matthew 11:19; Luke 7:34). He explicitly said that he had come for those very people. When He ate with tax collectors and sinners, in Matthew’s house, after He had called Matthew, the Pharisees objected. Matthew 9:11-13 11  When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ 12  On hearing this, Jesus said, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but those who are ill.  13  But go and learn what this means: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’ On the other hand, this should not be understood to mean that Jesus was weak and sentimental and only nice to people. It is very apparent that He was not. He criticised the Pharisees in ways that startle us (especially Matthew 23). He used physical violence against the money-changers in the Temple. He criticised whole cities that did not repent. Matthew 11:20-24 20  Then Jesus began to denounce the towns in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent.  21  ‘Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.  22  But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades. For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day.  24  But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.’ God is undoubtedly loving and He does give graciously to the righteous and the unrighteous but that only reinforces the reality that there are both righteous and unrighteous people. Ultimately, the unrighteous will be judged. Jesus did not avoid talking about judgement. On the contrary, He mentioned it often. His love is seen in the fact that He didn’t want people to suffer judgement and He warned them against it. His love is seen even more in the fact that He died that people might not have to experience judgement. He Himself paid the price. Romans 5:6-8 6  You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  7  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die.  8  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. It was while we were still sinners that Christ died for us. If people will not repent and receive the salvation Jesus offers, Jesus give us that choice and we must take the responsibility. Jesus has done everything necessary other than force us to accept it. His love for us is such that, despite His desire that everyone come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9), He gives us free will. What is the significance of all this for this discussion? Christians are to love sinners just like Jesus did and therefore Christians are to love practising homosexuals. There are two sides to that love. It is to be radically sacrificial and intensely practical but God-like love is not sentimental or politically correct. It will also confront and challenge and warn. In fact, concern for people’s salvation will be motivation to love in ways that do confront, challenge and warn.

Related pages

© Peter Cheyne 2017.
A Christian’s Guide To Homosexuality
Truth In Love
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