We talk of the need to balance the Gospel rightly by representing it as “truth and love.” This implies that when we cover doctrine, we balance the hard edge of truth with a little grace; and when we talk about grace, we add a measure of truth to prevent listeners from turning it into a license to sin.
Over the past 18 months, I have watched a trend emerge that I think you will find intriguing. Increasingly, people will come up to me after I share a message and say something along the lines of, “I was tempted to accept a pro-gay theological position, but after hearing you speak I think I will stick to orthodoxy.” The strange thing about this kind of feedback is that – in every case – I did not cover any moral doctrine in my message.
Several months ago, I ran across a survey claiming that the number one reason why people switch to a pro-gay position is due to relational – and not theological – factors. In other words, people change their theology because they know someone who is gay that does not in any regard fit the horrible stereotypes promoted in the culture war descriptions of gay people.
This made the connection for me: people are tempted to switch their theology because they deeply care about their friends and loved ones. Due to many decades of the church handling this issue exclusively through a doctrinal lens – yes, even kindly so – we really have not taught congregations how to love people who have different beliefs. When someone is gay that I really love, my belief cracks because I have not been acculturated into the biblical truth that I can radically love those who see the scriptures differently than myself.
The lesson? When I address homosexuality at the practical level of how to love and care for and welcome and include gay friends and loved ones, people’s hearts hold firm to truth rather than let go of it. It is the lack of love that makes people run toward a love untethered from truth. When people can palpably sense love and see how they can continue to love the people they care about, they can hold to orthodoxy with greater comfort.
There will always be some who demand a kind of love that tears at the fabric of biblical truth. I suspect that we do the same thing by our propensity to sin. That will lead some leaders to balance “truth and love” when presenting the Gospel, and I am perfectly fine with that. It makes sense.
Sometimes, however, the truth may simply – and supernaturally – radiate out of love because the truth is found IN the humble expression of Christ’s love. No wonder Jesus said, “A new command I give to you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
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