The Christian life can be frustrating because of a glaring conundrum (a problem difficult to deal with). We are called by God to both love our fellow man AND unashamedly follow God’s commands found in Scripture based on our personal interpretation. Originally coined in 1939 by Winston Churchill, it’s a conundrum, a paradox wrapped in an enigma.
The Biblical Christian Paradox
Biblical Christianity is a paradox. The Bible clearly and repeatedly calls Christians to “love your neighbor” (Luke 10:27), while at the same time saying, “if you love me (God), keep my commands” (John 14:15). If one reads the Bible as saying marriage is between a man and a woman, then Christians are caught up in this desire to love our LGBTQ friends, but also called to publicly reject some of their behavior. If one interprets Scripture to view evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, deceit, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness (Mark 7:20-23) as unacceptable behaviors, while society seems to be drifting toward an acceptability of these behaviors, how are we to respond?
Should Christians Love the Sinner But Hate the Sin
There is a well-worn and controversial adage…. “Love the sinner; hate the sin.” Many believers find this an easy statement to say, but difficult to follow. This is especially true when it comes to God’s command to witness to the lost.
Jude 1:22-23 – And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.
Clearly this verse speaks to the importance of salvation (“snatching them out of the fire”), expressing love (“mercy”) while, at the same time being willing to acknowledge bad behavior (“stained by the flesh”).
Of course, we are all sinners (Rom. 7:22-24), regardless of our relationship with Christ, or the lack thereof. However, when believers are trying to minister to someone and they know our view of their behavior (anger, greed, pride, abortion, sexual immorality) falls against God’s will, there is a barrier to that care, and certainly a resistance to evangelism.
In addition, the believer can be challenged in his/her own efforts to love those who challenge our theology through their behavior. For example, as Jesus cared for the thief on the cross by saying, “today you will be with me in paradise”, are we able to “turn the other cheek” and love and care for those who hate the principles we stand for? Certainly, the Bible calls us to act in that way.
1 John 4:20 – If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.
Paradox is defined by Webster as, “one having seemingly contradictory qualities or phases”. The paradox for the Biblical Christian surfaces as we love our neighbor and acknowledge that continuing sin as unacceptable. Of course, our own continuing sinful nature further adds to that paradox.
Can we, as believers, get past the “hate the sin” and “love the sinner” regardless of how we are treated? Can we build relationships with the lost in such a way where we don’t compromise our Scriptural beliefs in an effort to fit into society and/or build relationships with the lost at the expense of losing our Biblical foothold”?
The answer and the challenge is compressed into a single verse, likely one of the most significant verses in the Bible….
Mark 12:30–31 — 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.”
Many Christians focus on the second part of this verse, “loving our neighbor”. We too easily gloss over the first part, what it means to “love God”.
To love God is to follow His commands, and many traditional Christians believe that God is Pro-Life, that the Bible is truth, and sees marriage only between a man and a woman. Scripture calls pride, envy, lust, greed, and theft, sins. So, when Biblical Christians want to build caring relationships, want to love our neighbors, want to share the love of Christ with all who will listen, when confronted by our culture which opposes our views, there is a paradox of contradictions. We want to love, but don’t want to turn away from what we see as the commandments of God in the process.
The Biblical Christian Enigma
On top of the paradox of maintaining God’s commands while trying to love all people, is the reality that the Bible can be an enigma. Webster defines enigma as “something hard to understand or explain”.
Honestly, there are times when the Bible is hard to understand.
It comes into play because mankind is left to interpret God’s Word. We are imperfect, sinful beings called on to understand an omniscient, omnipotent God. Some solve this dilemma by reducing the Bible to a set of old stories that have no relevance in establishing morality today. Others believe some of the Bible is true but disregard parts which they feel are not to be trusted. Finally, others who believe God wrote an inerrant Bible that man penned, offer varying opinions on the most challenging topics it covers like abortion and homosexuality.
Christian Paradox Plus the Biblical Enigma Equals a Conundrum
Biblical Christians who want to both love their neighbor and follow God’s commands, are challenged by many whom they see as peers, but who offer theology which attempts to fit our secular society. This creates a conundrum.
It’s a form of cognitive dissonance (incompatible beliefs held simultaneously). And, as the culture continues to drift away from traditional Christianity, the pressure to conform to society will continue to increase. In this heated environment, Christians “deconstruct” as a way to separate themselves from God’s commands, allowing them to fit more smoothly into society. Churches who try to hold fast to traditional beliefs become targets for espousing views which are consequently seen as bastions of “hate speech”. Even rioting, theft, drug addiction, civil disorder, and media distortion have been minimized to a place of near acceptance in our society. However, God’s moral guidelines remain unchanged.
The Lord has written the history of mankind from start to finish. Conflicts, paradoxes, and even Biblical enigmas have been predicted to occur. In the midst of all this, God asks each of us a question….
2 Peter 3:11 – Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness,
We need to express humility and love toward our neighbors regardless of who they are, while, at the same time hold to our faith in God’s commands, regardless of the response.
Author – Jeff Hilles | BCWorldview.org
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