Biblical Christians are called by God to conduct themselves in two, sometimes contradictory ways, all at the same time.
Love Your Neighbor
As Christians, we are clearly commanded by God to “love our neighbor”.
You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD. – Leviticus 19:18
“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. – Matthew 7:12
If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. – James 2:8
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. – John 13:34
Simply put Christians are commanded by God in both the Old Testiment and the New Testiment to love our neighbor, regardless of who they are and what they do. Further clarification is given in Luke 10:29 and following that “our neighbor” is not limited to those we like or agree with, but also includes those who don’t share our values and culture, using the parable of the Good Samaritan.
Love God and Follow His Commands
Biblical Christians are also called to love God and follow all His commands, as provided in His word.
You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. – Deuteronomy 6:5
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. – John 14:15
Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” – John 14:21
And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. – Matthew 22:37
Love God AND our Neighbor
God has intentionally set Christians at odds with secular society ever since mankind was exiled from the Garden of Eden. That is the point when sin entered the physical world and sin not only separates man from God, it also separates each of us from humanity in general. Somehow, the Christian is commanded to follow God as a demonstration of our love for Him and, at the same time, love individuals, which we may otherwise dislike. And, God could not be more clear in His decree. He makes both these objectives the most important commands in the Bible and places them in the mouth of Jesus and in the same set of sentences, so there is no question as to His wishes.
And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” – Matthew 22:37-40
And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’There is no other commandment greater than these.” – Mark 12:30-31
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” – Luke 10:27
There is bound to be conflict when Christians are faced with issues where our “neighbor” has opinions that are different than our interpretation of God’s commands. These issues have not really changed much over time, but the intensity and an increasing willingness to defend opposing viewpoints has increased dramatically in recent years. Just a few examples include:
Complementarianism – Most Biblical Christians hold the view that men and women are different, and that difference complements each other, strengthening a marriage/family relationship. This includes resistance to women as Sr. Pastors.
Abortion – With rare exceptions, Biblical Christians view abortion as an unconscionable death sentence for the unborn child.
Marriage – Most Biblical Christians see the covenant of marriage as exclusively between a biological man and woman.
Salvation – Biblical Christians believe in one God and the need to accept Him, from the heart, by faith, as their personal Lord and Savior. We see Jesus Christ as the only solution to an otherwise eternity in a real and literal Hell.
Bible – Biblical Christians believe the Bible is God’s word and is without error in its original autographs. The differences between denominations and theology stem from human interpretations (and misinterpretations) of a perfect work of an omniscient God.
Evangelism – Biblical Christians are not called to be passive observers of life on this earth which ends in an eternal state. We are called to offer a solution to the contamination of sin, not only in ourselves but in others. God desires that we be His disciples, recognizing that there are many who need salvation but there are few willing to offer the Good News of Christ’s work on the cross (Matt.9:37, 28:19).
As Biblical Christians try to love our neighbors and follow His commands, we often fall into the impossible position of having to defend views that are contrary to the very people we are trying to love and serve. Some Christians are so legalistic that they demand those they desire to serve to first accept and comply with God’s commands in some or all of the areas of conflict listed above. Other Christians, who put the love of humanity above all else, ignore God’s clear commands, especially the gospel message of salvation. To love someone on this earth must include a desire to help them (with permission and appropriate timing) pass through to eternity in Heaven. Finally, there are those Christians who attempt to strike the right balance between loving God and loving our neighbor, but are challenged by a secular and combative society looking for conflicts.
Christians are called to love mankind and to love God. Ultimately, the Lord has chosen to put us in a place of potential conflict with those who hold opposing views. Part of the faith we all share is that we, as Christians, acknowledge that God knows what He is doing and sees the big picture, which we do not. It is also important to keep in mind that, as we serve our fellow man and simultaneously serve God, we remain sinners ourselves. We fail constantly in this conundrum of Christan life and have been warned many times in scripture that we will be persecuted for both our failures and our successes in being His servants in a lost and dying world. Our job and our goal as the Lord’s emissaries is to stay close to Him and reach out to love the lost, regardless of the cost.
Not surprisingly, there were some comments on this post, expressing understandable frustration with Christians who, they believe, need to keep our views to ourselves and not try to interject our opinions on those who disagree. Below is a sampling of my response.
Obviously, the popular and accepted view today is that the conflict between Christians and non-Christians rests with the Christians. And, frankly, I agree. if we could just live and let live without judgment, there would be so many fewer conflicts.
Near the end of this post I mentioned three types of Christians… (1) legalistic ones who create the most damage, (2) fearful ones who go along with social changes in order to get along, (3) those who try to strike a balance, not looking to initiate controversy, but willing to stand up for God’s principals when confronted.
I believe the first group is the one most point to when angry over Christians taking our beliefs and trying to force them on others. Respectfully, I have a problem with the second group because they are buckling to society in situations where God’s word is often clear and contradictory. It is the third group that does the best job of balancing “love God” and ‘love our neighbor”, even though, (which was the point of the post), this can be very challenging at times.
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