Do you ever get the sense that something is missing? Do you ever in the Independent Baptist world amidst the claims of our being the closest thing to New Testament Christianity feel that something is off kilter? Do you read the Gospels and think something about what Jesus did in sharing the Gospel with others is lacking in our efforts? Could it be that while many elements are present we have one major lacking component?
Love. We at times see the depths of the problem by the intensity of the cringing when we mention the need of love. Some are instantly offended when the word love is offered up as important. Sometimes the charge of “O no, you are one of those love-love-love people” starts flying. Well, that is a strange criticism to get. All in all, I don’t think I would be too devastated to be labeled as a Christian who is infected with love. Following a God Who Himself said He is love might make that criticism a badge of honor!
Still, some of our fellow Independent Baptists would be horrified to have the love label attached to them. Love, a theme that finds its way from the beginning pages of the Bible, intensifies in the New Testament, and finds its highest expression on the lips of Jesus in the Gospels, is thought by some to be a sure sign of weakness. Some feel it weakens the body of truth that is Christianity while, strangely enough, the Bible says it defines it and undergirds the whole.
I think they have the explaining to do. Love, for them, is really an umbrella term for a set of words and even some Scriptures that will put you on the suspicious list. Grace–that word that is a love springing forth raises some eyebrows. An appeal to love enough to not judge is a real blood-pressure raiser. To even quote Matthew 7:1 (“Judge not, that ye be not judged.”) is a sure-fire way to make them think you don’t even believe the Bible even though you just quoted it. Liberty, or the freedom purchased by love, is another no-no. “Love your neighbor” may be in the Bible, but surely neighbor is an extinct species. You get the point. The things criticized here make up a grand portion of the New Testament and it is, therefore, absurd to criticize where the Bible commends for one claiming to follow that Word.
This gets even uglier. We give token acknowledgment to love and then revel in a harsh, militant view of the truth. How could we have truth without love if love is part of that truth? We are hard where Jesus was kind. We say we love, but no one believes us. We scream and get angry and lament that no one listens. Would you listen?
Love is never proved by words, only action. The test is simple: do others feel it? Before you trash the test remember the ones who met Jesus in the Gospels would have answered yes.
To have Christianity without love is like having chocolate chip cookies without chocolate! If you make those cookies and realize you left out the chocolate you know you bombed! Go back to the kitchen and put in the chocolate or you will never have chocolate chip cookies. Without love you will never have Bible Christianity either! This ingredient is missing, but it isn’t lost. We know where it is. In fact, the cupboard is full of love for one who knows Jesus Christ. I suggest we go to that cupboard, get it, and put it back in.
Find all articles in the series here.