Loving God, loving people

28 Jan

When you imagine someone who is deeply concerned about truth, do you also picture someone who is seriously interested in people?

I am afraid all too often we don’t. We know it would be foolish to say you love people when you don’t love the truth. But I sometimes wonder if we understand just how foolish it is to say that we love truth without also loving people. If it is dangerous to try to serve people without a love for God, it is just as dangerous to try to serve God without a love for people.   
The fact is it is your love for people that demonstrates whether or not you do in fact love the truth.   In case you are wondering, I didn’t come up with that.  The apostle John puts it like this. “The person who says he loves God whom he has not seen but does not love his brother whom he has seen is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”  It doesn’t get more straight up than that.

Love God, love people. The two are connected. Those who love people best must love truth most.  Those who love truth most must love people best.

The problem with loving people the way the Bible tells us to though is that it requires you actually love people.  This is after all part of what is behind the biblical commands to love others sincerely.  Loving others sincerely means fake won’t cut it.  Insincere love is not biblical love.

But it is easier.

Fake love doesn’t require you make sacrifices.  It only asks that you smile, nod and say the right words at the right time.  Fake love can actually make your life easier.  If you don’t learn to at least pretend you care for people, you probably won’t have many people pretend to care about you.  That may be why some of us have been learning to pretend to love other people for a long time.

If you really love the truth, the truth compels you to be more than just polite.

We need to learn to love people deeply, sincerely and from the heart. 

In other words, we need to learn to love other people the way Jesus loved people. 

I am not sure how anyone can say they are serious about Jesus without being serious about people, because if there is one thing even the most cursory study of the gospels will show you, it is that Jesus was seriously interested in the good of people.

One proof of that is the fact that Jesus was deeply compassionate. 

Now of course we have to be careful about how we say that because so many in our day have a wrong-headed idea of what it means to be compassionate, but still we need to say it. If we don’t we are closing are eyes to an important part of what Jesus was all about.  After all, as the theologian B.B. Warfield once pointed out, compassion is the emotion Jesus is most often described as experiencing.

When we say Jesus was compassionate, we don’t mean as many assume, that Jesus didn’t take sin seriously.  The difference between Jesus and the religious leaders of his day was not that they took seriously and he did not.  You really couldn’t take sin more seriously than Jesus did.  I remember a book about Jesus’ attitude towards sin.  The first chapter was entitled, ‘But I like my eyeballs.’  I am guessing you do too. I know I do.  If I had to pluck one out, well I don’t know exactly how I’d go about doing that, but I’m pretty sure if I did have to do that, and I actually survived, I’d look back on the day I plucked out my own eyeball as one of my worst days, ever. In fact, I’d kind of be like, can it get worse than that?  Can it get worse than actually plucking out your own eyeball?  According to Jesus, it can.  In Jesus’ mind, the fact is, plucking out your own eyeball wasn’t nearly as terrible as choosing to sin.  It’s actually better to pluck out your eye than it is to sin which means that obviously when we talk about Jesus being compassionate, we don’t mean that he didn’t take sin seriously.

What we do mean is that he was not only against sin, he was also for God and the good of his people.  What we do mean is that Jesus was not merely a radio that you turned on and out came a sermon, he was a person who cared deeply for the people he was preaching to.  What we do mean is that Jesus loved the truth and he loved people.

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