The problem of love without caring

We use the word love so much these days that it often doesn’t seem to mean much.  There’s lots of love, but without caring.  For instance, I love sushi, especially ikura and uni.  Add a quail egg, and there’s even more to love.  But does that love include caring?  No.  It’s just food, there’s no caring associated with that love.

love without caring - heart shaped bowlsBut then there’s you, the person reading this.  Chances are I don’t know you – and you don’t know me.  How can I love you the same way I love sushi?  It makes no sense to do that.  But I do care about you.  I care enough about you that I spend lots of time and energy writing things for this site and my other one.  That’s caring without love.  Or is it?

What is love?

For one thing, “what is love” is a song by Nestor Alexander Haddaway.  Saturday Night Live used to do a set with it many years ago.  But that’s not what I mean here.

The question really is – what is “love”?  Sure, there’s a dictionary definition.  Supposedly that’s based on the way people actually use the word.  But look how love is defined at dictionary.com:

  1. a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person.
  2. a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a parent, child, or friend.
  3. sexual passion or desire.

With that definition, we’d never associate the word love with sushi.  Or with those heart-shaped fruit bowls above.  But we do.  We love everything from food to TV shows.  We love all sorts of things.  When we remodeled our kitchen, we even loved the new kitchen sink.  Obviously, there’s a disconnect here between the definition and common usage.

Even with people, if I don’t know you, it’s hard to really love you the same way I do my wife.  Or even friends.  Even acquaintances.  Although, we do seem to be able to find ways to hate people we don’t know.

Love without caring

What should be just as obvious is that “love” doesn’t necessarily mean much anymore.  That’s why I used the title – love without caring.  Sure – caring can really be misused too.  But it doesn’t seem to be thrown around like the word “love” is.  So what I really want to look at is “caring”.  And then using the word love combined with a certain level of caring.

And while this may seem rather trivial so far, I’m about to get very serious.

The topic that brings this up is made clear in a recent NBC News headline:

United Methodists edge toward breakup over LGBT policies

The article starts off with this:

There’s at least one area of agreement among conservative, centrist and liberal leaders in the United Methodist Church: America’s largest mainline Protestant denomination is on a path toward likely breakup over differences on same-sex marriage and ordination of LGBT pastors.

The differences have simmered for years, and came to a head in February at a conference in St. Louis where delegates voted 438-384 for a proposal called the Traditional Plan, which strengthens bans on LGBT-inclusive practices. A majority of U.S.-based delegates opposed that plan and favored LGBT-friendly options, but they were outvoted by U.S. conservatives teamed with most of the delegates from Methodist strongholds in Africa and the Philippines.

Many believe the vote will prompt an exodus from the church by liberal congregations that are already expressing their dissatisfaction over the move.

Among other things, what’s happening is going to be viewed, by some, as a love versus hate scenario.  But is it?  If we can step back from the emotionally charged issue of LGBT rights for a moment, is it really love versus hate?  That’s hard to do – step back.  It means not looking to our already existing feelings about LGBT lifestyles.  About Christian churches – Methodist or otherwise.  Even stepping back from the God we created in our own personal image.

Stepping back from our biases

Yeah – it’s hard.  We need to look at someone, not as LGBT, but as a fellow human being.  We need to look at the church, any church, the way God intended it to be.  And while we’re at it, we need to look at God the way He describes Himself.  After all, we didn’t really create Him – He created us.

Are you ready?  Can you do it?  Do you even want to do it?  If you answered “no”, then I submit you’re not ready to love or to care.  Because at the end of the day, at the end of our life, we’re people.  People created by God.  No more.  And certainly no less.

As we go through this, remember what I said about getting rid of preconceived notions.  Some of you, maybe even many, will be surprised at what you read.  I’m going to look to one source – God’s word.  The Bible.  And we’ll look at the language in which it was written – Hebrew or Greek.

Further, we’ll look at the culture of the time.  It won’t be our language today – English, Russian, German, Spanish, Etc.  And it won’t be the culture of today.  Because things really do get lost in translation.  And things really do change from one generation to the next.  So we’ll look at the original and then try to figure out what that means to us today.  Real love.  Real caring.  As in God’s kind of love and caring.

Does this apply to you, the reader, no matter who you are?

I know – if you’re not Christian, you may think this doesn’t apply to you.  Especially if your choice to be something other than Christian was based on “Christians” you know.  But again remember, this is about the way God intended it to be.  The way Jesus told His followers to act.  What I’m trying to say is, don’t give up on God because some people don’t measure up to His standards.  Truth is, none of us do.

This is about the way we should try to be in this life.  And about the way we will be in the next life.  Not based on some denominational doctrine of what the Bible supposedly says – but what it really says.  So I encourage you to try to stay with me here.

As a society, we really need to figure out what we mean when we say love.  Lot’s of disagreements, even downright hatred towards each other, come from using the word love too freely.  Saying we love someone when there’s little or no actual love involved at all.  And it seems to be that maybe the best way to do that is to look at the amount and kind of caring that goes with that overused word – love.

God’s kind of love

To put it really simply, God’s kind of love is, in a word, God.


Disclaimer: – before we proceed, I’m writing from the point of view of the Protestant Bible.  The Catholic Bible is slightly different.  Furthermore, speaking as a former Catholic, I believe their traditions and structures are beyond what’s recorded in the Bible.  I’m also not writing about the extra things added by Mormons, Jehovah’s Witness, or other groups that claim to be Christian but do not restrict their beliefs and teaching to what’s in the Bible.  Since we’re looking at God here, it also won’t include Buddhism, Islam (because the Qur’an conflicts with the Bible in so many areas, including its statements that Jesus is not the Son of God), or any other non-Christian religion.

The restrictions are necessary.  Otherwise, “God”, like the word “love” has so many different meanings and connotations that it’s useless.  It could mean nothing, everything, or literally anything in between.


God’s Love and Ours

1Jn 4:7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

When John writes, Dear friends, let us love one another, the audience is other Christians.  He says love comes from God. As an example of God’s love for us, John writes about Jesus.  Given that, we’re clearly talking about Christians as people who believe Jesus is the Son of God.  Also that Jesus died on the cross, was resurrected, and returned to Heaven.  Without those basic beliefs, John’s conclusion in verse 10 makes no sense.

Calling ourselves Christian is meaningless unless be believe this is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  While that may sound obvious, it apparently isn’t.  At least 25% of people who claim to be Christian do not believe that Jesus was resurrected from the dead.  Again – unless we believe that, His sacrifice cannot exist.  There’s no forgiveness.  And God’s love is as meaningless as me loving ikura sushi with a quail egg on top.

That’s important for everyone to realize.  Including those of you who are non-Christians.  If your view of Christianity is negative because of people like this, know that their basic beliefs are 180 degrees opposite of what the Bible teaches.  And their view of “love”, because of that, is skewed.

As for non-Christians who don’t believe what I just wrote about Jesus, that’s OK.  You’re not claiming to be Christian.  I have nothing against you.  I do hope to convince you to take (another?) look at what Christianity really is, but it’s not my place to judge you.

1Jn 4:13 We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. 17 In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

This part of the passage is the source for when Christians say that “God is love“.  It has some examples and the reasons why God is love is so important.  To step away from these verses and redefine love as something else is to redefine God.  In other words, to have a different view of love, one based on our wishes for what we want love to mean, is to redefine God in our image.  And then, God ceases to be God.  We then have a different kind of love, one without caring.

We have made ourselves into god.  Or, at the very least tried to put ourselves above God.  As you may remember, that’s the very scenario from the Garden of Eden.

The Fall of Man

Ge 3:1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

Ge 3:2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ ”

Ge 3:4 “You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

For those of you who are Christian, tell me – do you really want to go there?  Especially for those who are Christian leaders, tell me – do you really want to go there?  Christian leaders, of all people, really have to know where this is going to end up.  Hint – it’s not a good place.  Don’t be redefining love.  Don’t be redefining God.

1Jn 4:19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.

This brings in two important points.  First – that we love because God loved us first.  Second, it brings in the contrasting issue of hate.

We love because he first loved us

Yes, God did love us first.  I know, Adam and Eve got kicked out of the Garden of Eden.  But it’s not like it was for no reason.  They got plenty of warning.  If anything, they deserved worse.  After all, looking at the literal Hebrew from Genesis, God told them they would die die.  Yes – die is there twice, it’s not a typo.  For more on that whole Eden incident, please see Why were Adam and Eve kicked out of the Garden of Eden? and The Problem of Free Will.

The New Testament opens with yet another example of God’s love.  Jesus – who we read about above.  And remember what’s probably the single most famous verse in the Bible, one which shows great love and caring:

Jn 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Once again, we really shouldn’t be redefining God’s love.  Jesus died, for us, because of God’s love.  The very same love that some are trying to redefine.  For a non-Christian to do this, it’s understandable.  For a Christian to do it, it’s beyond belief.  God’s love is at the very core of what we believe.  How can we even want to change it?

I love God but hate my brother

By now, it should be apparent that it’s just not possible to love God but hate someone else.

Actually, it is possible.  Sort of.  We do it a lot.  But when it happens, one of maybe four things is going on.

  1. The person isn’t Christian.  As above, I’m not judging non-Christians.  Without the belief in Jesus as the Son of God and that He’s our Lord and Savior, and without any attempt to try to live a Christian life, there’s no expectation that they even have a true understanding of God and God’s love.
  2. The person is Christian, but emotions have temporarily taken over.  Emphasis on the word temporary.  We’re fallen people.  It happens.  The thing is to return to our faith and try to live in a fashion that shows God’s love.
  3. We don’t love God the way He loves us.  We’ve redefined love.  And once again, that means we’ve redefined God.  Not a good place to be.
  4. We’re messed up in our definition of hate.  

What is hate?

Presumably, hate is the absence of love.  Dictionary.com says:

verb (used with object), hat·ed, hat·ing.

to dislike intensely or passionately; feel extreme aversion for or extreme hostility toward; detest: to hate the enemy; to hate bigotry.
to be unwilling; dislike: hate to do it.

verb (used without object), hat·ed, hat·ing.

to feel intense dislike, or extreme aversion or hostility.

noun

intense dislike; extreme aversion or hostility.

the object of extreme aversion or hostility.

OK, but exactly what is it that is hated?  That’s a question that needs to be answered.

But before we go there, let’s look at the Biblical meanings, both Old and New Testament.

HATE (Heb. śānē˒; Gk. miséō).

Aversion or hostility. Biblical usage represents a broad range of nuances from intense malice to simple disregard as expressed between individuals and groups and between God and mankind.

We start off the same – aversion and hostility.  However, the wide range of the intensity of the hatred, and the introduction of God are both new.

According to the Old Testament, hatred may stem from wickedness (Ps. 26:5), ill will (25:19), apostasy (101:3), or political differences (Dan. 4:19 [MT 16]).

Even the differences between people within a religion can be, but aren’t always, political.

The wicked hate those who are righteous (Prov. 29:10), just as the righteous hate those who sin (e.g., Ps. 119:113, 163).

Note that the part about the righteous hate those who sin was changed by Jesus.  Christians are told to love those who sin, even their enemies.

Mt 5:43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be sons 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 brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

That’s not easy to do.  It’s hard to love people who hate us.  And yet, that’s what Jesus says we must do.  That’s where the saying, hate the sin but love the sinner comes from.  So when a Christian gets into that discussion about love and hate, and what is it that we hate, it’s important to remember this.

This is also one area where the non-Christian needs to understand what we’re talking about.  It’s up to the Christian to actually do what Jesus said – love the sinner but hate the sin.  It’s also up to us, when we get into a discussion like this, to try to make the non-Christian aware of this difference.  It’s huge.

We have no reason to expect non-Christians to know this.  We also have to be sure that we know it and follow it ourselves.

In its most intense expression, hatred connotes deliberation and intent (Num. 35:20; cf. Deut. 4:42; 19:4ff.; RSV “enmity”). Elsewhere it may indicate the existence of a grudge (Gen. 27:41) or merely rejection or repulsion (Judg. 11:7; 2 Sam. 13:22). With regard to husbands and wives, hate indicates the dissolution (or perhaps a diminution or restriction; cf. Gen. 29:31; Deut. 21:15) of the marriage bond (KJV, 22:13, 16; RSV “spurns”; 24:3; RSV “dislikes”).

More examples, although not necessarily applicable to this topic and example.

It is with regard to such a covenantal relationship that hatred is proscribed as a threat to the stability of the community of believers (Lev. 19:17). Hatred between God and mankind, in particular, focuses on the covenant. To “hate” God means to reject or break the covenant relationship with God (e.g., Exod. 20:5; Deut. 5:9; Ps. 68:2 [MT 2]). Accordingly, God hates behavior which is not conducive to the covenant (e.g., Deut. 16:22; Prov. 6:16–19; Isa. 1:14; Amos 5:21).

Note:  To “hate” God means to reject or break the covenant relationship with God.  Redefining God and His love is most certainly breaking the covenant relationship with God.  That’s something for every Christian to realize.  It’s especially important for our leaders to know that, remember it, and be sure they don’t do it.  Otherwise we have something that’s not God’s love and it without His caring.

It’s a behavior that God hates.  It is a threat to the stability of the community of believers.  And that’s exactly what’s happening in our example of the Methodist church.  It’s in danger of splitting into pieces.

The New Testament also exhibits a variety of interpretations of hatred. Covenantal ties are implicit in Jesus’ instructions that a disciple must “hate” his family and even his own life (Luke 14:26), thereby subordinating all to Christ. Likewise, one cannot serve two masters, for he will naturally subordinate one to the other (Matt. 6:24; cf. Rom. 7:15). Because Christ was the corporeal and apprehendable manifestation of the “light” of God’s love, one must consciously and without compromise eschew the “darkness” of sin and the resultant disruption of relationship to both God and one’s fellows (e.g., John 3:20–21).  [1]Myers, A. C. (1987). In The Eerdmans Bible dictionary (p. 466). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.[2]

This last one is often misunderstood.  What it’s really saying is that our love for Jesus should be so great that, by comparison, our love for anything or anyone else should appear to be like hatred.  Not that it actually is hatred – just that itis very far from the love for Jesus.

What is a Christian?

This feels like a good time for a side-trip.  A look back to check out Christianity, the name and the people called Christians.  Again, remember this isn’t about those who claim to be Christians but believe something else.  This is about what Christianity really was when it got started, nearly 2,000 years ago.

I’m taking you on that trip now because, at the time, John was speaking to those who were part of something called “The Way”.  The Way was one name for Jesus’ followers.  They were also mockingly called Christians.  The name is for obvious reasons – they followed Christ.  The mocking was because, well – read for yourself:

Terms used to designate Christ’s early followers, as groups or as individuals. In the earliest years of the Christian era, when the church was unified, no denominational names (such as Baptist or Roman Catholic) existed. Local churches did not have names but were known by their locations (such as “the church at Ephesus”). Nor was there a single official name for the new Christian movement. Many designations were used for the followers of Christ, and these changed as the historical situation changed. Many Christians considered themselves simply Jews who followed Jesus.  

One thing to note:  While there were different names, there were not different denominations.  It’s merely that different people, who were not followers of Jesus, used different terms to refer to those people who were followers of Jesus.

What Christians Were Called by Others. As Jesus’ disciples preached and won converts after the resurrection, other Jews began to see this as a new movement. They applied four names to the Christian community, not all of them complimentary.

Galileans. Since Jesus and most of the 12 disciples were from Galilee, it was natural for the term to be applied to all of his followers, especially since it implied that the movement was not as pure as Judean Judaism. Some interpreters believe that Luke 22:59 is an example of the use of “Galilean” as a title; in Acts 1:11 and 2:7 it is merely a geographical reference. One sure reference to Christians by that title appears in the work of the pagan philosopher Epictetus (AD 50?–135?), who was impressed with how Christians died for their faith. It is not clear how common the title of Galilean was, but it had obviously spread from Judea to Rome, where Epictetus lived.

The concern about purity was actually a snobbish thing.  It was meant to show that Judean Judaism was the “best”, even over Judaism in other areas, and certainly over these followers of Jesus who could come from anywhere and be of any nationality.

But at the same time, we see some respect for them.  The willingness to die for what we believe is a sign of very strong faith and trust.

Nazarenes. Jesus was known as “Jesus of Nazareth” or “Jesus the Nazarene,” so it was easy to transfer that title to his followers. They were “followers of the Nazarene” or “Nazarenes.” The earliest use of the term is in Acts 24:5, where Tertullus accused the apostle Paul of being “a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes.” Certainly he did not intend the title as a compliment, but how others used it is not known. Whether the early Christians used that name for themselves is doubtful, although later Jewish-Christian and Gnostic groups did call themselves Nazarenes. One early writing was even called The Gospel of the Nazarenes.

Feelings about Nazareth at the time are very evident from a statement in John’s gospel: Jn 1:46 “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?”

Followers of the Way. Christianity was far from being simply an abstract belief; it was a whole way of life. The new way of living was obvious to those around Christians and to the Christians themselves, for they were following Jesus’ lifestyle, the way he had lived and taught. Soon the term “this Way” or “the Way” meant Christian. Thus Saul (the pre-Christian name of Paul) was sent to Damascus to arrest anyone belonging to “the Way” (Acts 9:2). Christians may also have used the term to describe themselves; Luke referred to the Christian movement as “the Way” (Acts 19:9, 23; 24:22). It is the only name Christians and non-Christians both may have used for the new movement.

The same name – the Way.  But some used it as a reference to them in a loving way.  Others used it as a means of identifying the enemy.

Christians. When the Christian movement reached Antioch in Syria, the gospel was preached to Gentiles as well as Jews. Such evangelism marked the sect as more than a new type of Judaism; it was a new religion. The Gentiles in Antioch invented a name for the new group. Since members of the group constantly talked about Christ, they were called Christians, meaning the “household” or “partisans” of Christ. Some satire may have been intended in the name. For instance, since the “Augustinians” were an organized group who led the public praise of the emperor Nero Augustus, the citizens of Antioch may have made a comparable Latinized name out of Christ as a joke. Similar groups included Herod’s partisans, the Herodians. “Christ” was an unusual and meaningless name to Gentiles, but Chrestos (meaning “good” or “kind”) was a common name; some pagans called the new sect “Chrestians.” Thus Suetonius wrote of the Jews being expelled from Rome in AD 49 on account of “Chrestus.”

The Christians themselves apparently did not appreciate the name, but, like many other nicknames, “Christian” stuck. It appears only three times in the NT: Acts 11:26 describes its origin; Acts 26:28 records Herod Agrippa II saying satirically to Paul, “In a short time you think to make me a Christian!”; 1 Peter 4:16 instructs believers not to be ashamed if they suffer because the name has been applied to them. No further record of the name appears until the 2nd century, when Ignatius of Antioch became the first Christian to call believers Christians. The Roman governor Pliny (from the area to which 1 Peter was addressed) wrote to the emperor Trajan about people accused in his court of being Christians. From that time on, the nickname became popular among Christians. What better name could there be than one declaring that they belonged to Christ?  [2]Elwell, W. A., & Beitzel, B. J. (1988). Christians, Names For. In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (Vol. 1, p. 431). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

And this is the name that stuck.  Little used at first.  All but forgotten.  But now it’s a name that is spoken with both love and hatred, just as before.

One interesting difference though is the way the original Christians reacted.  As Peter wrote – 1 Peter 4:16 instructs believers not to be ashamed if they suffer because the name has been applied to them.  Now, it seems that Christians treated this way want to pass legislation to “fix” the problem.

While there weren’t denominations, that didn’t mean there weren’t disagreements.  Even Peter and Paul had them.

Paul Opposes Peter

Gal 2:11 When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. 12 Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. 13 The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.

At that time, eating with someone was a big deal.  It was a sign of respect.  By refusing to eat with Gentiles, Peter was, in today’s words, disrespecting them.  Considering that all of the followers of Jesus were to show God’s kind of love to each other, Peter’s lack of even respect was a far cry from the love he should have shown.

And that was because of a political issue.  In the early days of the church, there were many disagreements about how “Jewish” followers of Jesus had to be.  We need to realize, Jesus was Jewish.  So were the vast majority of the people he spoke to.  So as non-Jews began to follow Jesus, His original disciples disagreed over how much of the Jewish law these Gentile (non-Jewish) followers had to observe.

Today, a breakup in the church would be the likely result.  But back then, they worked it out.  Today, we seem to have a need for everyone to be “right”.  That even sounds ridiculous, as long as there’s no context.  No personal feelings at stake.  But as soon as we add what they need to be “right” about – war breaks out.  And then the people break up.  Very little love or caring.  But this isn’t right.  See Should we respond to hate with more hate? for more on that thought.

One group accuses the other of not being loving.  But before we do that here, let’s step back.  Remove ourselves from active participation and just watch what goes on.   As James wrote in James 1:19-20, be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.

Gal 2:14 When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?

Notice what Paul says here: not acting in line with the truth of the gospel.  The argument / disagreement shouldn’t be over anyone’s feelings.  It shouldn’t be over political divisions.  At the time, that meant there should be no argument over how Jewish a Gentile had to become in order to be a follower of Jesus.

The answer should be in the truth of the gospel.  Of course, back then they couldn’t whip out their New Testaments.  They didn’t exist.  But these guys knew the gospel, the good news of Christ, intimately.  They lived it.  Peter, as a follower of Jesus.  Paul, during the life of Jesus and shortly after His death, as an antagonist of Jesus and His followers.

So it wasn’t about Peter’s truth or Paul’s truth.  It was about God’s truth.

Gal 2:15 “We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’ 16 know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.

Paul makes a point here that might get lost in the emotions of the argument.  He was the ultimate pharisee.  When Paul talks about the Law, he knows what he’s talking about – better than anyone else.  Someone who doesn’t know the Jewish Law as well really can’t come in and try to put something else in place. 

Yes, Paul’s a long way from being God.  However, Paul’s point is even more appropriate when we’re talking about things Jesus said He expected from His followers.  It’s not up to us to change what Jesus taught.  Just as it’s not the place of non-Jews to tell Jewish people what their law is about.

Ultimately, the points are this.  Adherence to the Jewish Law cannot save anyone, because no one can actually keep the law 100% of the time.  And for followers of Jesus, faith in Jesus is a requirement.  Furthermore, as we’ve shown in other articles, faith includes not only believing what Jesus said, but trying to live out what He taught.

Gal 2:17 “If, while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! 18 If I rebuild what I destroyed, I prove that I am a lawbreaker. 19 For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”

One final argument from Paul about why Jesus died on the cross.  He points out that if it was possible for people to adhere to the Jewish Law and be saved, then it wasn’t necessary for Jesus to suffer and die.  It’s obvious.  If we take the time to actually think about it.

These are the kinds of things we should look at in ourselves when we try to modify what’s in the Bible.  What we’d like to see there isn’t necessarily what’s really there.  As I’ve already said, take out the emotion and look at the cold hard facts of what the Bible really says.

What does all this mean for love without caring?

Let’s try to tie everything together here.  We’ve looked at God’s love.  And we’ve looked at the way people, both in Biblical times and today, use the word love.

Further, we’ve seen some reasons why “love” does and should mean different things to different people.  There’s no reason to expect non-Christians to have the same view of “love” as God’s love in the Bible.  On the other hand, there’s every reason to expect that Christians share the same view as Jesus taught and demonstrated in the New Testament.

Finally, we’ve also looked at the differences between leaders in the Christian church and what’s known as lay people who attend the church.  The leaders are expected to know more and to guide the church members, keeping them (us) on that narrow path Jesus spoke of.

Now, let’s look at the issue before the Methodist church in light of all that.  They have three plans to choose from, as outlined in an NBC News article, United Methodists seek to resolve deep split over LGBTQ clergy and marriage.  As we go through this, it’s important to remember that Jesus said, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.  And, we need to keep in mind that our feelings, as Christians, should not be on an emotional level and should not be personal.  In other words, hate the sin but love the sinner.

Keeping that tradition is one of three plans proposed by the 12 million-member church’s Commission on a Way Forward.

That tradition is the church’s historical position that sexual relationships should be solely between married men and women.  Lots of people know that this position comes from what God said about Adam and Eve:

Ge 2:19 Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field.
But for Adam no suitable helper was found. 21 So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

Ge 2:23 The man said,
“This is now bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman,’
for she was taken out of man.”

Ge 2:24 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.

That last verse is heavily leaned on to support the position that marriage is only between a man and a woman.  Add to that the teaching that sex should be reserved only for married couples, and you have the basis for the belief.  Well, part of it.

But there’s more.  While the passage above points to marriage being between a man and a woman, it doesn’t exclude other possibilities.  But does it mean other possibilities are OK?  We really need to look elsewhere for that.

Let’s take the flood as the next topic.

Ge 6:11 Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. 12 God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. 13 So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth.

Corrupt and full of violence.  It’s difficult to find a commentary that tries to get into what that means, without also getting into events that have not yet happened.  Remember, at this point, there was no Jewish Law.  It came in Exodus.  And it’s the Old Testament, so Jesus wasn’t born yet.  There are no words from Jesus, no disciples, and no letters from Paul.  Therefore, it’s hard to make a logically sound argument from anything related to the Jewish Law or Jesus.

With that in mind, I did find the excerpt below.  Chances are, it won’t match word for word with the Bible translation you’re using.  The text on which this commentary is based is the traditional Masoretic Text (MT), preserved in the great majority of mediaeval biblical manuscripts. The particular edition used here, Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (BHS) 1977, reproduces the Leningrad manuscript B19A which dates from the eleventh century A.D.

At least in this passage, it’s very close to the TLV Bible.  The TLV is The Tree of Life Version of the Holy Scriptures, first published in 2011, is a Messianic Jewish translation of the Hebrew Bible (or TA-NA-KH) and the New Testament (or New Covenant) sponsored by the Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society and The King’s University.  This particular passage is available online at //www.bible.com/bible/314/GEN.6.11-15.TLV.

11 “The earth was ruined.” “The earth” is mentioned six times in vv 11–13 and the verb “to ruin,” five times. Here and in v 12, “ruin” is the niphal of שׁחת, a stem used to describe the spoiling of a garment, or a pot in Jer 13:7; 18:4. The hiphil in vv 12–13 is frequently used to describe the sudden destruction of peoples and cities in war, or through divine judgment (e.g., Gen 18:28, 31, 32). Here Genesis brings together the ideas of “being spoilt” and “destroy,” so “ruin” has been adopted to translate שׁחת because it covers both senses.

“The earth was filled with violence.” Animals and men had been intended to fill the earth (1:22, 28); instead, “violence” (חמס) fills it. This important term (see H. J. Stoebe, THWAT, 1:583–87; H. Haag, TDOT, 4:478–87) is most often paired with שׁד “oppression.” “Violence” denotes any antisocial, unneighborly activity. Very often it involves the use of brute force, but it may just be the exploitation of the weak by the powerful or the poor by the rich (e.g., Amos 6:1–3), or the naive by the clever (Prov 16:29). Cassuto goes too far in suggesting that it covers any action that is not righteous. “Chamas is cold-blooded and unscrupulous infringement of the personal rights of others, motivated by greed and hate and often making use of physical violence and brutality” (TDOT, 4:482). In this context, Gen 4 well illustrates the meaning of “violence,” although the word itself is not used here. The post-flood decrees in 9:4–6 attempt to limit human and animal violence.  [3]Wenham, G. J. (1998). Genesis 1–15 (Vol. 1, pp. 170–171). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

Notice that it’s pretty much impossible to pin down any specific reason why God decided to bring the flood.  Yes, things are bad.  Yes, everyone seems to be doing things that God finds extremely displeasing.  Wrong.  Against His will.  Instead of everything being very good, as it was at the end of creation – everything is now very bad.  But if we’re looking to find any specific thing, like sexual immorality, it’s not stated.

14 So make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out. 15 This is how you are to build it: The ark is to be 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high. 16 Make a roof for it and finish the ark to within 18 inches of the top. Put a door in the side of the ark and make lower, middle and upper decks. 17 I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish. 18 But I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark—you and your sons and your wife and your sons’ wives with you.

Just to be complete, these verses with instructions on how to build the ark are included.

19 You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you. 20 Two of every kind of bird, of every kind of animal and of every kind of creature that moves along the ground will come to you to be kept alive. 21 You are to take every kind of food that is to be eaten and store it away as food for you and for them.”

Notice the references to “two” and to “male and female”.  This doesn’t point to any kind of immorality.  However, it does make the point that without a male and a female of any given kind of living being, the species will die out.  No matter what else one cares to believe about how men and women should live, the need for sex between a male and a female to preserve the species is inescapable.

The command to do just that came earlier in Genesis:

Ge 1:27 So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.

Ge 1:28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

So if not a moral imperative, we have to acknowledge that there is a practical reason for men and women to get married – procreation.  If everyone were to adopt a gay or lesbian lifestyle, the human population would, of necessity, die out.

I suppose we have to look at Sodom and Gomorrah next.

Moving along, we read this, when Abram and his nephew Lot decided to go their different ways.

Ge 13:5 Now Lot, who was moving about with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents. 6 But the land could not support them while they stayed together, for their possessions were so great that they were not able to stay together. 7 And quarreling arose between Abram’s herdsmen and the herdsmen of Lot. The Canaanites and Perizzites were also living in the land at that time.

Ge 13:8 So Abram said to Lot, “Let’s not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herdsmen and mine, for we are brothers. 9 Is not the whole land before you? Let’s part company. If you go to the left, I’ll go to the right; if you go to the right, I’ll go to the left.”

Ge 13:10 Lot looked up and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan was well watered, like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, toward Zoar. (This was before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) 11 So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out toward the east. The two men parted company: 12 Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom. 13 Now the men of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the LORD.

Yes, the sin referenced in verse 13 was exactly what it sounds like.  Later, we read:

Ge 14:8 Then the king of Sodom, the king of Gomorrah, the king of Admah, the king of Zeboiim and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar) marched out and drew up their battle lines in the Valley of Siddim 9 against Kedorlaomer king of Elam, Tidal king of Goiim, Amraphel king of Shinar and Arioch king of Ellasar—four kings against five. 10 Now the Valley of Siddim was full of tar pits, and when the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, some of the men fell into them and the rest fled to the hills. 11 The four kings seized all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah and all their food; then they went away. 12 They also carried off Abram’s nephew Lot and his possessions, since he was living in Sodom.

Ge 14:13 One who had escaped came and reported this to Abram the Hebrew. Now Abram was living near the great trees of Mamre the Amorite, a brother of Eshcol and Aner, all of whom were allied with Abram. 14 When Abram heard that his relative had been taken captive, he called out the 318 trained men born in his household and went in pursuit as far as Dan. 15 During the night Abram divided his men to attack them and he routed them, pursuing them as far as Hobah, north of Damascus. 16 He recovered all the goods and brought back his relative Lot and his possessions, together with the women and the other people.

This is the first time that there’s any reference to someone being “Hebrew” in the Bible.  Notice that God’s covenant with Abram wasn’t made yet.  It’s not until Genesis 15 that the covenant is made and God changes Abram’s name to Abraham.  And yet, the reference is made here.  The reference is significant, because of what it means:

5680 עִבְרִי [ʿIbriy /ib·ree/] n pr. Patronymic from 5677; GK 6303; 34 occurrences; AV translates as “Hebrew” 29 times, “Hebrew woman” twice, “Hebrew + 376” once, “Hebrewess” once, and “Hebrew man” once. 1 a designation of the patriarchs and the Israelites adj. 2 a designation of the patriarchs and the Israelites. Additional Information: Hebrew = “one from beyond”.  [4]Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.

We’ll see in a moment why the reference to the patriarchs of the Israelites is important.

In any case, what we do get from this passage is that Abram, in the course of saving his nephew Lot, also recovers all the goods lost by the King of Sodom in the battle.  However, Abram refused to accept anything from the King of Sodom as a reward.

Ge 14:21 The king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the people and keep the goods for yourself.”

Ge 14:22 But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have raised my hand to the LORD, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, and have taken an oath 23 that I will accept nothing belonging to you, not even a thread or the thong of a sandal, so that you will never be able to say, ‘I made Abram rich.’ 24 I will accept nothing but what my men have eaten and the share that belongs to the men who went with me—to Aner, Eshcol and Mamre. Let them have their share.”

Even though the covenant between God and Abram wasn’t made yet, something’s going on here.  Yes, Abram left his homeland because God told him to do so.  But now we learn that there was more to it.  We find out that through some unrecorded event(s), Abram was doing more than just leaving his homeland.  Abram was living a life that was guided by God.  And part of that life included taking nothing from the King of Sodom.  From the king who reigned over the land where the men of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the LORD.

This tells us more about God’s feelings about immoral sexual relations.

But maybe more than you might think.  Yes, God disapproves of them.  And yet, when Abram’s nephew is kidnapped in a battle, Abram rescues Lot and recovers the possessions of the King of Sodom.  It seems that God was, if not outright in support of that action, at least OK with it.  The only condition was that Abram not profit from the recovery.

I suspect there are many people today who would rescue Lot, but then leave everything from the King of Sodom behind rather than returning it to him.  Or, they’d rescue the possessions of the King of Sodom, but then go with the deal the King tried to strike and keep the profit from the recovery.  Maybe even go so far as to keep everything and returning nothing to the King of Sodom.  But that’s not what God told Abram.

Certainly, if the King of Sodom lost the battle, and Abram was able to save Lot and the king’s possessions and people, then Abram was capable of keeping everything and everyone.  But again – that’s not what God told Abram to do.  I feel there’s a lesson here for us.  Let’s keep going to see what it might be.

Abraham Pleads for Sodom

Ge 18:16 When the men got up to leave, they looked down toward Sodom, and Abraham walked along with them to see them on their way. 17 Then the LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? 18 Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. 19 For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just, so that the LORD will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.”

Ge 18:20 Then the LORD said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous 21 that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.”

So – God’s going to check out exactly what’s going on in Sodom and Gomorrah.  We’ll also learn, shortly.

Ge 18:22 The men turned away and went toward Sodom, but Abraham remained standing before the LORD. 23 Then Abraham approached him and said: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? 25 Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”

If you haven’t read it or don’t remember what happened in this bargaining session with God – it’s amazing.  I urge you to check it out.

Now, let’s fast forward to what was going on in Sodom.  There’s a lot to cover, so individual points will be made as the scene progresses.

Sodom and Gomorrah Destroyed

Ge 19:1 The two angels arrived at Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city. When he saw them, he got up to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground. 2 “My lords,” he said, “please turn aside to your servant’s house. You can wash your feet and spend the night and then go on your way early in the morning.”
“No,” they answered, “we will spend the night in the square.”

Lot is trying to show hospitality.  Inviting strangers in for a meal and to spend the night was a sign of respect at that time.  Whether Lot was also trying to “save” them from other men in the town, we don’t know.  To say he was doing exactly that would be nothing but speculation.

Ge 19:3 But he insisted so strongly that they did go with him and entered his house. He prepared a meal for them, baking bread without yeast, and they ate. 4 Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom—both young and old—surrounded the house. 5 They called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.”

Remember, God’s objective was for these two angels, appearing as men, was to find out what was happening.  First-hand experience.  At first, it seemed like Lot may have prevented that with his invitation for them to stay the night and travel on in the morning.

But the extent of the desire within the men of the town was so great that they went to Lot’s house.

Ge 19:6 Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him 7 and said, “No, my friends. Don’t do this wicked thing. 8 Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.”

Look at what Lot is offering.  Virgin daughters in place of the men / angels.  That’s awful.  And yet, comparatively speaking, Lot thought it was preferable to what the men of Sodom were trying to do.  Neither is a good thing.  But sex between men was considered even more wicked than Lot giving the men his daughters.

Ge 19:9 “Get out of our way,” they replied. And they said, “This fellow came here as an alien, and now he wants to play the judge! We’ll treat you worse than them.” They kept bringing pressure on Lot and moved forward to break down the door.

The men of Sodom wouldn’t take no for an answer.  They even got to the point of getting ready to break the door down.  If we’re honest, that’s part of the problem with many things we know are wrong, but we do them anyway.  At first, the desires are relatively weak, and we convince ourselves they aren’t “too bad”.  But they don’t satisfy.  So we want more.  The desires become stronger.  Our actions become more and more wrong.

But again, they don’t satisfy like we thought they would.  And so we end up in a vicious cycle where we seek things that become increasingly evil and always end up unsatisfied.

Before we move on, I am not saying this happens with everyone who lives an alternate lifestyle.  It doesn’t.  I am saying that it’s a danger that comes with doing things that are against God’s will.

Ge 19:10 But the men inside reached out and pulled Lot back into the house and shut the door. 11 Then they struck the men who were at the door of the house, young and old, with blindness so that they could not find the door.

Ge 19:12 The two men said to Lot, “Do you have anyone else here—sons-in-law, sons or daughters, or anyone else in the city who belongs to you? Get them out of here, 13 because we are going to destroy this place. The outcry to the LORD against its people is so great that he has sent us to destroy it.”

The men / angels protect Lot and warn him about what’s going to happen.  Because of what just occurred with the men of Lot, the city is going to be destroyed.

Ge 19:14 So Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who were pledged to marry his daughters. He said, “Hurry and get out of this place, because the LORD is about to destroy the city!” But his sons-in-law thought he was joking.

Lot’s sons thought he was joking.  Today, many people take a similar approach.  Maybe they think it’s a joke.  Many think this was a fairy tale, or something made up to keep people in line with a moral code that someone invented to prevent people from having fun.  Others think this isn’t true anymore.  Whatever the reason, many people just don’t consider the danger to be real today.

Ge 19:15 With the coming of dawn, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Hurry! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away when the city is punished.”

Hurry!  Truth is, we don’t know when we’re going to die.  Even if you don’t believe in the Biblical prophecy about the end-times, death is something we all will encounter.  So if we take any of God’s warnings seriously, “hurry” is always something to think about.  For any one of us, tomorrow really might not come.  Now is the time to correct our ways, because we might not have the chance tomorrow.

Ge 19:16 When he hesitated, the men grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city, for the LORD was merciful to them. 17 As soon as they had brought them out, one of them said, “Flee for your lives! Don’t look back, and don’t stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!”

Ge 19:18 But Lot said to them, “No, my lords, please! 19 Your servant has found favor in your eyes, and you have shown great kindness to me in sparing my life. But I can’t flee to the mountains; this disaster will overtake me, and I’ll die. 20 Look, here is a town near enough to run to, and it is small. Let me flee to it—it is very small, isn’t it? Then my life will be spared.”

Ge 19:21 He said to him, “Very well, I will grant this request too; I will not overthrow the town you speak of. 22 But flee there quickly, because I cannot do anything until you reach it.” (That is why the town was called Zoar. )

More warnings.  Don’t even watch.

Ge 19:23 By the time Lot reached Zoar, the sun had risen over the land. 24 Then the LORD rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah—from the LORD out of the heavens. 25 Thus he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, including all those living in the cities—and also the vegetation in the land. 26 But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.

Destruction came – from God.  Lot’s wife looked back, and paid the price for not heeding the warning.  Everything was destroyed.

Ge 19:27 Early the next morning Abraham got up and returned to the place where he had stood before the LORD. 28 He looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah, toward all the land of the plain, and he saw dense smoke rising from the land, like smoke from a furnace.

Ge 19:29 So when God destroyed the cities of the plain, he remembered Abraham, and he brought Lot out of the catastrophe that overthrew the cities where Lot had lived.

What do we learn from this?  Obviously, there’s God’s feelings about the wickedness of immoral sex.

But remember what happened with Lot and the King of Sodom?  There’s something else to learn here.

Ro 12:17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my 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.”

Yes, that’s Paul in the New Testament.  Here’s where it comes from, in the Old Testament.

Dt 32:35 It is mine to avenge; I will repay.
In due time their foot will slip;
their day of disaster is near
and their doom rushes upon them.

I included both passages to show that vengeance belongs to God, even today.  Maybe even more so, under the New Covenant, vengeance belongs to God.  In the Old Testament, God used to have people carry out His vengeance sometimes.  But notice what Paul said above – if it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.  Even when people are evil, if it is possible, we are to live at peace with everyone.

If it is possible, that includes people who do things God has said are wicked.  So before we go out and try to take vengeance on someone we believe is doing evil things in the eyes of God, we need to ask ourselves that question of whether it’s really impossible to live at peace with them.  And before we decide it’s not possible, we also need to remember something Jesus said –

Judging Others

7:3-5 pp — Lk 6:41, 42

Mt 7:1 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

Mt 7:3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

The passage is about God judging us in the same way we judge others.  But when we decide to play “god”, doesn’t it also apply to other people as well?  None of us is perfect.  What happens when someone decides that one of the sins we commit is so grave that vengeance must be taken on us?  Even if we leave God out of it, which of us can safely take vengeance on someone who takes part in a sexual partnership that we consider wrong?  Which one of us hasn’t done a single thing that could be used against us?  Answer: none of us.

A New Testament example

For some reason, people like to think that all this stuff about wicked and immoral sex was only for the Old Testament.  That’s just not true.  In a passage from Romans, Paul writes about people turning away from God.  Yes, it’s about what happens when do do just that.  And it’s not good stuff.  However, it’s also about what happens when we actually do try to follow God.  You can read about the uplifting view of this passage on my other site, in A note on happiness.

For now though, let’s look at how this passage talks about sexual impurity.

God’s Wrath Against Mankind

Ro 1:18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

Ro 1:21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

Ro 1:24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

Notice how this ties together the initial act of turning away from God, and because of that we have the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.

That’s an interesting statement.  Paul says we don’t fall away from God because of our desire for immoral sex.  He says it’s the other way around – that because we’re already falling away from God that we have those desires in the first place.

Guess what people – we’re born in sin.  We’re all fallen.  We’re all born apart from God.  However, we don’t all end up in those immoral sexual relationships.  Why does this matter?  Some people today say they are gay, lesbian, Etc, because God made them that way.  Sorry, but that’s not true.

Yes, we all have sinful desires.  But we weren’t made that way because of God.  We are “made” that way because of Satan and because of what happened with Adam and Eve.  The entire belief that “God made me this way” just isn’t true.  It doesn’t hold up to Biblical scrutiny.  The only way “God made me that way” can be true is, as we saw earlier, when we redefine God and He’s not God anymore.  Instead, we’ve turned the God who created us into a “god” that we created.

And by “made that way”, I don’t mean just LGBT.  I mean any way.  God’s desire is for all of us to return to Him.  But we have the choice to follow Satan instead.  The only way we were “made” is with the free will to choose.

Ro 1:26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.

Once we start down that path, things just get worse.  And worse. …

Ro 1:28 Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

And they get still worse.  Notice the part about becoming God-haters.  It’s absolutely true.  We may try to claim that “God made me this way”, and God loves me like I am.  But remember, it’s not God – it’s “god”.  It’s a “god” that we created ourselves, because of the influence of Satan.  We’ll read more about God loves me the way I am in a bit.

Like it or not, everything above is straight out of the Bible.

Maybe you don’t like it, because you want God to approve of your lifestyle.  Sorry – it’s just not there.

Maybe you don’t like it, because you want to persecute LGBT people, because you think that’s what Jesus wants you to do.  Sorry – that’s not there either.  It’s just not our place to do that.  According to Jesus Christ, the One for whom our religion is named, we are to love everyone.  Period.  No exceptions.

I’m not saying it’s easy.  I had an uncle who, when I was at their home, used to sit on the edge of his bed naked, with legs spread wide and the door open.  When I was in summer camp one year, one of the camp counselors liked to “play” with the boys in the showers.  He later was one of my elementary school teachers.  And, I was molested by a man when I was a boy.  It’s hard to love after experiences like that.  And yet, it’s what I’m told to do by Jesus.  And so, that’s what I must try to do.  To do anything else is to deny Jesus.  That’s not going to happen.

That took longer than I expected.  Let’s return to the proposals before the Methodist Church.

The commission and the church’s leadership broadly support a second proposal, called the One Church Plan, which would allow the ordination of LGBTQ pastors and recognition of same-sex weddings.

I’ll say right up front, I have a problem with this one.  About three years ago, I wrote a piece that asked whether there will be LGBT people in Heaven.  I invite you to read the whole thing, but the short answer is yes.  Part of it was about – what makes people in LGBT relationships so bad that they won’t be forgiven?  Christians believe that murderers will be forgiven, if they ask, and will be in Heaven.  We’ve all sinned, as already noted.  What makes that one so bad?

However, I take a different stand when it comes to God’s church actually teaching that such relationships are acceptable to God.  I think the Biblical evidence is clear.  And as I’ve said, to change that means we’ve redefined God.  And there’s the problem.  When God’s church conducts false teachings about God, then it’s not His church anymore.

I get it – people want to do the loving thing.  But let’s get back to the title.  The problem of love without caring.

In condoning LGBT relationships, we’ve already redefined love – from God’s love to something else.  In the process, we’ve also redefined God, since the Bible says God is love.  For leaders in the church, this should be completely unacceptable.  The commission and the church’s leadership broadly support this proposal.  That means then, that the church leadership supports redefining God and God’s love.  How can this be OK?  It cannot!  Remember the Great Commission?  God’s church risks turning into god’s church.  Maybe showing human love, but not caring about eternal souls.

The Great Commission

Mt 28:16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Notice the part about making disciples – teaching people to obey everything Jesus said.  That’s not redefining what Jesus said – that’s teaching them what He said.  I know – you’re thinking that Jesus never said anything that was clearly about improper sexual relations.  Sorry, but that’s not really true.  Jesus did say:

The Fulfillment of the Law

Mt 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Yes, this was about Jesus being the fulfillment of the Old Testament Law and the messages of the Prophets.  But it’s also about not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.

Two recurring themes run through the Sermon on the Mount and they are encapsulated for us in the words Jesus uses. In 5:17 Jesus says, ‘I have not come to abolish [the Law and the Prophets]’; and in 5:22, 28, 32, 34 and 44 he uses the phrase ‘But I say to you’.

Matthew 5:17-20 is in the early part of what we call The Sermon On The Mount.

These parallel themes help us to understand what Jesus is doing in the Sermon on the Mount. On the one hand, he is preserving, continuing and fulfilling what God had previously revealed in the Old Testament. His function was not to ‘abolish’ either the Law or the Prophets; rather, Jesus saw himself as standing in that same stream of revelation, his teachings being of a piece with what the Old Testament had declared.

As stated above, Jesus said that He was the fulfillment of The Law and the Prophets.  He was not here to abolish them.  Not everything in them, at any rate.

That does not mean that everything was to continue as it was before. By fulfilling the Law, some aspects of Old Testament legislation were to be rendered obsolete. For example, the sacrifices and ceremonies associated with redemption and atonement were, in fact, to be done away with because Jesus came to fulfill them and to usher in perfect righteousness. Much of the letter to the Hebrews is taken up with precisely that theme.

Since Jesus was the ultimate and final sacrifice, the animal and various other sacrifices were no longer needed.

On the other hand, extracting the true meaning of Old Testament law meant a break with the received Jewish, rabbinical teaching of the day. So when Jesus says, ‘But I say to you’, he is not setting himself over against Moses, but over against those whose interpretations of the Law had turned God’s covenant of grace into a covenant of works. For too many people, righteousness was a matter of obeying all the rules; no, says Jesus, the rules require us to go deeper than the shallow religion of the rabbis might suggest.

Rather than abolish those parts of the Law that Jesus did not fulfill, Jesus actually made them even stronger.  We see that in the very next verse from Matthew:

Mt 5:21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.”

Jesus goes on to give similar examples for adultery, divorce, oaths, the saying “an eye for an eye”, and hating enemies.  An impressive list.  But not complete.  If we take anything away from what Jesus taught about immoral sexual relations from the Old Testament, it’s not that they are all of a sudden OK now.  It’s that actually performing those acts is still wrong, in God’s eye.  Not only that, but even thinking of doing them is wrong in God’s eye.

No other conclusion is really logical.  Jesus consistently strengthened the wording of the Law.  He did not weaken them at all.  There’s a reason for that.  In Romans, Paul wrote:

Ro 5:20 The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, 21 so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

We saw earlier that even thought the Law didn’t come until Exodus, people were aware of God and of right and wrong.  Paul tells us that the Law was added, not that it came out of the blue, so we’d be that much more aware of when we sin.  Jesus strengthened the Law, making us aware that even thinking of doing things that were against Law were actually sinful.  However, the goal wasn’t to send more people to Hell.  The goal was to make us more aware of our sins, more fully trying to follow Jesus, more completely asking forgiveness for our sins, and ultimately more likely to be saved by God’s grace.

When we turn the above passages into something written just for condemnation, we are once again redefining God.  We’re turning God’s love for us into a situation where we view Him as hating us.  That’s just not right.

This is what Jesus means when he says that ‘unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven’ (v. 20). Belonging to his kingdom, and living the kingdom life, takes more than external conformity to a set of religious standards. It has to go deeper than that.  [5]Campbell, I. D. (2008). Opening up Matthew (pp. 44–45). Leominster: Day One Publications.

What we get in the end is the view that just checking off some boxes on a list isn’t what God’s looking for.  He wants us to actually care.  To love Him – because He loves us.  Love with caring.  He loves us so much that He gives us the free will to live life the way we want.  But He also cares about us so much that He wants us to be saved.

At the same time, He won’t force salvation on us.  We’re the ones who try to force salvation on other people.  Our version of salvation.  From our version of “God”.  With our teachings about the “God” we created.  That may be viewed, in some sense, as love, although not God’s kind of love.  It’s love without caring.  It’s using the word “love”, even as we condemn the ones we supposedly love to a life apart from God.  Ultimately, to an eternity apart from God.

It’s not surprising that this kind of things happen with people who don’t believe in God.  It’s normal.  But for those who claim to love God, this is wrong.  For those in positions of leadership in the church, it’s part of the reason these words were written:

The Greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven

18:1-5 pp — Mk 9:33-37; Lk 9:46-48

Mt 18:1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

Mt 18:2 He called a little child and had him stand among them. 3 And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Mt 18:5 “And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. 6 But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.

Mt 18:7 “Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come! 8 If your hand or your foot causes you to sin cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. 9 And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.”

Let’s face it, church leaders who are involved in false teaching are causing one of these little ones who believe in me to sin.  It’s one thing to sin.  But it’s another to teach that sinful acts are OK.

Taming the Tongue

Jas 3:1 Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. 2 We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.

The first verse alone should be enough to make leaders and teachers in the church think twice about what we do.  I think more than twice before I write or teach.  And pray.  Not to the God I’d like to make in my image, but to the one who created us and left His word to teach us.  And for us to teach.  But there’s more.  Because verse 1 alone isn’t enough.

Jas 3:3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5 Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

No, we’re not talking about actual, literal forest fires.  But we are talking about the fires that come with desire.  You know, like fanning the flames of passion.  That increasing desire that comes once we’ve crossed a threshold and then want to keep going, even though we know we shouldn’t.

For one person, that affects them and whoever they may take with them.  Possibly even others who know what’s going on.  Although, some / many of our darkest desires are kept secret.

But with leaders and teachers in the church, things are so much more out in the open.  When we teach things that are against God’s wishes, many other people hear it.  And they like what they hear.  It somehow convinces us that our image of “god” is the right one.  And that our definitions of right and wrong are the correct ones.

Before you know it, the church is in conflict.  Maybe just one location.  But then maybe also an entire denomination.  Like the one we’re looking at here.

Jas 3:7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, 8 but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

Yes, our tongues will eventually reveal our inner feelings and desires.  At some point, we succeed in convincing ourselves that things we used to know are wrong – they’ve suddenly become OK – and finally they are “god approved”.  What we fail to recognize is that through that process, we’ve redefined God.  We’ve turned Him into our god, made in our image.  With our definition of “love”.

And then we’re poisoning others.  Again, eventually it’s out of control.  Dissension develops.  And churches split.  At least one of the “new” churches from that split is now following someone’s god, but it’s no longer the God of the Bible.  Sure, it’s done in “love”.  But it’s also done without regard to God’s kind of love.  Eternal love.  Love with caring.

Jas 3:9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

Yes, there are elements of truth on both sides of a church split like this.  The problem is that at least one side, as we’ve seen, is redefining God.  And when that happens, the fresh water becomes salty.  Salty water kills the trees.  No fruit is produced.

The analogy is that the salty water, the poison from the wrong things we teach, mixes in with the truth that we also teach.  But the result of combining truth and lies is lies.  Yes, some truth is still there.  But it’s tainted with the lies.  People are sinning against God, and they don’t know it, because the lies from their church have convinced them that their sins aren’t really sinful.

How?  Because they worship the god of this mix of truth and lies – not the God of truth.  This god is a false god.  You may remember:

Ex 20:3 “You shall have no other gods before me.”

That god resulting from the combination of truth and lies is another god, not the God of the Bible, and we’ve just placed our god before the God of the Bible.  Tell me then, how can we be saved?  Salvation comes only from the God of the Bible – from His Son Jesus.  This god we create isn’t going to save us.  He can’t.  Because He’s not the one who said, “You shall have no other gods before me.”

A complicated third plan, called the Connectional Conference, would replace the church’s five regional governing conferences with three churchwide “theological conferences” — in essence, separate but partner United Methodist structures reflecting each of the key positions within the main church.

That would result in “a big church with smaller tents underneath … connected to Christ but reaching out to many different kinds of mission,” Mazvita Machinga, a commission member from Zimbabwe, said Sunday.

This one sounds like the ultimate buffet church.  Pick and choose among the options.  If you like it – go for it.  If you don’t like it – pretend God doesn’t like it either.  Good grief.  What are they thinking?  There’s nothing in either the Old or the New Testament that gives validity to something like this.  They’ve just created a “God” who doesn’t love and isn’t caring.

Truth is, are are only two options, as we read earlier.  The wide path and the narrow path.  Those two options were given by Jesus – not by me.  In that light, there is one good option.  Only one that follows the narrow path that leads to Heaven.  All of the others are merely lanes in the wide path that leads to Hell.

This is a dangerous path for any church.  They appear to legitimize those lanes in the wide path.

Love without caring – leads to six of the seven woes

Think about what you’ve just read.  Now let’s look at the first six of the seven woes that Jesus proclaimed in Matthew’s gospel.

You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces

Mt 23:13 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.

God’s word is redefined to show that He approves of things that in fact He does not.  Those who teach and those who are the legalistic watchers of the church accept that new definition of God and His love.  However, since it’s not God’s Love, but is actually man’s love without caring about the eternal souls of the people, it actually turns people away from God.

The people are suddenly taken off the narrow path, detoured onto the wide path, and find out too late that it doesn’t lead to Heaven.  As Jesus says, these teachers and leaders will not enter Heaven.  They can’t, because their faith is in themselves with their own thinking of right and wrong.  Unfortunately, those who attend their churches and follow their false beliefs won’t enter Heaven either.  Even though they may have been seeking the true God of the Bible, they won’t find Him because they were lead astray by these false teachings.

You travel over land and sea to win a single convert

Mt 23:15 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.

Most churches don’t have a lot of people who travel over land and sea anymore.  There’s enough of them that most areas have a local church of some sort.  Even many local churches.  But there are missionaries.  Also TV evangelists.  And there’s the internet.  As I said, I’m well aware of the expectations of God every time I write something and publish it.  It concerns me a great deal that I get His word right.  But that’s not true for some people.

Those who “travel” and have invalid teaching, whether physically or virtually, are the ones Jesus addresses here.  Speaking of “a single convert” reminds me of the parable of the lost sheep.  That’s where the shepherd, Jesus, leaves the 99 in order to go find the one lost sheep.  Here, Jesus is talking about the people who prey on that one lost person.  Trying to take advantage of them and lead them astray, when a true follower of God would be trying to bring them back.

That one lost person is vulnerable.  They were part of the flock.  Part of a church.  For some reason they left.  Maybe they suffered some kind of emotional pain, but something or someone sent them away.  And a false teacher takes them further away.  And it’s all done under the guise of a new, improved “God” that’s been redefined to be more “loving” to that one lost person.  The problem?  It’s man’s love without caring for the person’s eternal soul.

blind guides – wrong allegiance

Mt 23:16 “Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ 17 You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? 18 You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gift on it, he is bound by his oath.’ 19 You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 Therefore, he who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21 And he who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. 22 And he who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it.

This one is about creating idols.  In some ways, in can be very similar to the first two woes.  Clearly, it’s about false teaching.  But consider this.  You feel that the Biblical teaching of what God says is evil runs contrary to what you’d like it to be.  So something is substituted for God.  As Jesus points out, that could be the gold of the temple rather than the temple (where God lives).  Or the altar rather than the gift on the altar (where Jesus is the gift).

We substitute man-made things for God, and then worship those man-made things.  Then it’s easy to also switch to man-made rules for what is evil and what is good.  Before too long, we end up worshiping the very thing that the Bible forbids.  It’s the slippery-slope thing.  It’s hard to sin when our focus is on Jesus, His suffering and His death on the cross.  It’s a whole lot easier when our focus is on something else – anything else.

We call it love.  But again, it’s man’s love without caring for the eternal soul.

you have neglected the more important matters of the law

Mt 23:23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

Maybe this one’s not quite so obvious.  It’s not necessarily about giving the one tenth.  That’s important, but it’s the other things that are more important – justice, mercy and faithfulness.

justice – God requires justice.  And Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is offered as payment for our sins.  Justice is served.  But – and this is a big one – Jesus’ death on the cross is to pay for the things that God considers sinful when we ask His forgiveness.  When we take something that’s specified as sinful in the Bible and claim that it’s no longer a sin, I suspect that people who do those things aren’t going to be asking for God’s forgiveness.  Why should they?  They don’t view it as a sin.

But maybe they think Job’s approach is a good one.  You may remember, he offered sacrifices for his children, just in case they sinned and forgot to offer their own sacrifice.  That way they’d always be “covered” – forgiven.  Maybe we even do that for ourselves?  We ask for forgiveness for any sins we may have forgotten?

But there’s a problem with redefining God and God’s views pf what’s right and wrong.  It’s no longer a case of forgotten sin.  It’s a case of doing something that we believe is not sinful, but it really is.  God’s not going to forgive that.  We didn’t ask Him to.  Jesus didn’t die on the cross for any god that we created.  Jesus died on the cross for the God of the Bible.

It’s God’s vision of justice.  Not ours.  And we don’t get to say that any activity isn’t sinful, when God says it is.  Sure, there are things that we do and don’t think about them being sinful.  But when we specifically and knowingly go against God’s word, I have to believe that’s a problem.

mercy – OK – this one’s for the people who call themselves Christian, and how we treat people who sin against God.  That includes people who have their own man-made list of things that God says are sinful but they say are not.  Mercy.

Tell me, when Jesus walked the earth, how many people did He strike down for committing a sin?  Answer – none.  When Jesus returns, the words in Revelation paint a very different story.  But we’re not in that time yet.  We’re supposed to follow His example.  Jesus didn’t serve God’s justice on anyone while He was here two thousand years ago.

So why do we think we should?  Why do we think we have the right to do something in Jesus’ name that He Himself didn’t do?  Remember the parable of the Good Samaritan?  You can look it up starting at Luke 10:25.  Here’s how it ended:

Lk 10:36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

Lk 10:37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

Yes, have mercy.  Not only that, but we also have the Great Commission to go and teach others the good news, to learn about and obey Jesus.  How are we supposed to do that when we beat people over the head, try to legislate God’s word, and various other things that are anything but merciful?  Or loving?  I mean really – Jesus came at the time of the Roman Empire when everything He said was against the laws of the time.  Look at His results.  And then ask yourself, why do we think we need to do things that Jesus never did?  Why do we need the law on our side, when Jesus and the early church were so much more successful than we are, and they had the law pursuing them?

faithfulness – Faithfulness to God’s word is the key here.  For everyone.  Whether it’s the person redefining God, or those of us who are saying we’re followers of Jesus, we need to be faithful the God’s word.  Not our word.  Not our rewording of God’s word.  But what He really said.  All of it, not just the parts we like.

We need to learn to live in a way that shows God’s love, caring for the eternal soul of everyone, whether we agree with them or not.  We were all created by God.  We’re all living in a fallen world.  And we all deserve to be treated in a way that shows God’s love for His creation.  We need to learn to be following Jesus’ example of being loving and caring for people’s eternal souls.

You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside …

Mt 23:25 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

By now, you should know what’s coming here.  Hiding behind the guise of being Christian, in other words disguised as a so-called Christian, doesn’t make the things we say and do approving to God.  Christians, true followers of Jesus, don’t redefine Christ.  We believe the Bible is God’s word, so we don’t change it.

Like the Pharisees, no matter how pious we try to make ourselves look on Sunday mornings, it’s what’s inside of us that matters.  It’s what’s inside that comes out when we come across people we don’t like, that we disagree with.  The problem is, Jesus told us to love those kinds of people.  Not to hate them.

When we try to pass laws that make their activities illegal, whether it be abortion, LGBT issues, whatever, that’s not loving.

In a similar way, when the church tries to accommodate those things that are against God’s will, that’s not loving either.

The first – passing laws – drives people away from God.

The second – accommodating their wrong beliefs – gives them a false sense of security.  Yes, God loves them.  God even loves them as they are.  But one thing that get’s lost is that God also loves them too much to leave them the way they are.  Leaving it at “God loves you the way you are” and stopping there leaves out a very important step.

Being Christian involves a transformation.  For all of us.  Maybe we forgot.  I know some who don’t want to seem it admit it.  But every true follower of Jesus has been transformed.

Ro 12:1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Maybe we’d like to think we’re perfect now – but we aren’t.  Maybe we want to think we were always perfect – but we weren’t.  There must be lifestyle changes as well as changes in our hearts and minds.  It’s a never ending process.  And no matter how much we may not like some of those changes, they are part of the process.

When we outright refuse to even try to make those changes, we very much run the risk of telling God that we don’t want Him.  That we’d rather spend eternity without Him, as opposed to making the changes needed to be with Him.  That’s choosing the wide path over the narrow path.  Not a good choice.

Yes, those changes are refused by the ones who want to continue in their sinful life.  But I submit, those changes are also refused when we decide we’d rather enforce our justice right now against perceived sinners, as opposed to trying to show mercy to them and waiting for God’s timing and God’s justice.  Because that’s also sinful  Both are on the wide path.  Both are showing some form of human love, without caring for the eternal soul.

You are like whitewashed tombs

Mt 23:27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

I included this one, but for this topic it’s pretty much the same as the cup above.  One difference is that this was extremely insulting to the Pharisees and teachers of the law.  In the Old Testament, cleanliness laws were extremely important to the Jewish people.  This statement by Jesus tells the Pharisees and teachers of the law that everyone they came in contact with was unclean.  That was incredibly bad.  For more on that, please see Blessed are those who mourn , and then search for “whitewashed tombs” on the page.

For some so-called Christian leaders, the analogy fits today as well.  In what’s supposed to be the name of Jesus, they are actually driving people away from what Jesus taught.

Conclusion – The problem of love without caring

As you can see, there are all sorts of problems that come when we love without caring.  Our kind of love is usually short-term.  Sometimes even for just one night – or an hour.  Little if any caring is involved at times like that.  Even the “until death do us part” is pretty much optional in weddings today.  It’s more like “until I don’t care anymore”.  The way we use words like love and care – they don’t mean much at all.

But with God’s love and God’s care – it’s forever.

I know, that sounds weird when we consider people who go to Hell.  The thing is, part of God’s love is giving us the choice to love Him back.  The choice to want to spend eternity with Him or not.  The choice to take the narrow path or the wide path.  For a deeper look into that, please see The Problem of Free Will.  Unlike our human love, God loves us even though we don’t love Him.

But also unlike humans, God does not try to force us to love Him.  We try to pass laws to make it illegal to do things we think are against loving God.  But remember the cup.  Even if it looks clean on the outside, it can still be dirty on the inside.  Legislation will never lead to someone choosing to love God of their own free will.  The very act of passing legislation to do that is contrary to what Jesus taught.

In the same fashion, hating people to get them to love God won’t work either.  Of their own free will, they get further from God.  That’s also contrary to what Jesus taught.  You know – things like mercy and the Great Commission?

Even when we try to be “loving”, changing God’s words to say something they don’t, it’s contrary to God’s will.  In a way, maybe it’s even worse than the previous two examples.  It gives people a sense that they’re on the narrow path, when they’re actually on the wide one.  And it puts us on the wide path as well.  Right in front of them, as we lead them like lambs to the slaughter of destruction at the end of that wide path.  All in the name of so-called love.

In the example of the LGBT stances being considered by the Methodist church, I have to question the caring for people’s eternal souls.  Yes, it likely seems loving to LGBT people, because they are accepted by the church.  And it must appear loving to enough of the leadership of the church that it’s reached this point.  It also must appear loving to enough members of the church that it’s reached this point.

However, I also have to ask, what is the goal?

Is the goal of LGBT people to be accepted by the Methodist church?  Or, I should say, is that the only goal?  If the objective is to be accepted by a given church, in this case the Methodist church, is that anything more than looking at the church as a social group?  I’m asking this because being a member of a church – any church – doesn’t save us.  It honestly doesn’t.

Being a member of a church shows a commitment to that church.  Presumably to the things they teach and what they stand for.  But even those things aren’t what saves us,  Jesus, the namesake of the Christian Church says that we are saved by faith in Him and by God’s grace.  Not faith in a church, especially since there was no such thing as a church denomination in His time.  Salvation comes by faith in Jesus.

So if the end goal is only acceptance by a church, that doesn’t provide salvation to LGBT people.  What it does is provide false teaching and a path from, not to, salvation to everyone who has faith in that church and what they teach.  Furthermore, it does not lead to faith in Jesus, since the teaching is contrary to what He said.

By the same token, those who attack LBGT people and treat them any differently from the way Jesus treated everyone, because we are all sinners, are also leading themselves and others away from faith in Jesus.  There’s only one way Jesus left for us to live.  Love everyone.  With God’s love.  Love and caring for their eternal souls.

If the goal for LGBT people is to truly know God, then there’s only one way forward as well.  Know God the way He really said He is.  Don’t change Him, because then He’s not God – you just have another false god.

It’s hard to hear.  But it’s not just hard for LGBT people and their issues.  It’s hard for all of us.  We’re all sinners.  We all fall short of the glory of God.  We all have things we must change, or at least be willing to try to change.  It doesn’t matter if we’re LGBT or not.  Whether we’re murderers or people who call others fools.  Whether we dream of adultery or actually carry it out.  We’ve all got baggage.  And we need to offload that baggage.  Transform.  Live like we actually want to follow Jesus.

Anything less that trying to live the life Jesus calls for living with God’s love and care for out eternal souls.  It’s living with human love and not caring about the eternal soul.

 


Image by silviarita from Pixabay

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