Jesus’ love is trending in the Church today. But on closer inspection, it may not be Jesus’ after all.
I hear a lot of Christians talk about Jesus’ love, but when I read Jesus’ quoted words about his love, I get two contrasting pictures.
The trending (and trendy) Christian definition of Jesus’ love is that people should get to do whatever they want, and if you tell them to do otherwise, you are very unloving. It gives a picture of Jesus as a lovesick puppy frolicking through first century Palestine passing out daisies and giving green lights to all in his path.
This is not the picture of Jesus I see in the gospels at all.
At the end of the day, I’m just tired of people saying, “Jesus says ABC about love,” when there are direct quotes from Jesus that say exactly the opposite. If you want to say you say ABC about love, that’s fine, but don’t falsely slap Jesus’ name onto it.
I read this recently on social media:
Being Christlike often requires us to be unbiblical. Just one example – an eye for an eye is biblical. It is not Christlike.
If your focus is on following the Bible you will live one way. It will involve rules, complex interpretations of the contradictions between parts of the Bible as well as some very hard to understand ancient stories of genocide.
But the Bible points us to Jesus. He made it both simple and at the same time very hard. He left three rules for his followers based upon the premise that God is love and all other interpretations of God missed that.
1. Love God.
2. Love your neighbor as yourself.
3. Love each other as he loved…
…Jesus, not the Bible is our final authority. How do we know this? The Bible tells us so.
We have gotten to a point where it is Jesus OR the Bible, not Jesus AND the Bible. Even though Jesus himself goes out of his way to affirm the Bible (including the parts referred to here as genocide) as explicitly as possible:
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. -Matthew 5:17-18
We are not under the old covenant of the Old Testament anymore, we are under the new covenant in Jesus. The Old and New Testaments are clear that when the Messiah comes, the law of the Old Testament won’t apply to us anymore, we will get a new law from Jesus. (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 8:1-13). But even in the new covenant, Jesus continually affirms that the Old Testament is inspired by God (Matthew 22:43) and he quotes it over and over again as such.
Even if you wanted to make the thin argument that we should throw out the Old Testament because of the new covenant, you certainly can’t throw out everything Jesus said in the gospels! Yes, Jesus said the greatest commandments are to love God and love your neighbor as yourself (directly quoting the Old Testament, ironically), but he said a lot of other things too! These two commands do not negate all of the other things he said. Quite the contrary, if Jesus is a consistent and true teacher (which he is), then all of the rest of his commands and teachings give the specific, flesh-and-bone ways that these two greatest commandments to love will be lived out. His teachings and commands show us what his definition of love means. Let’s also not forget the Great Commission where we are specifically commanded by Jesus to “Go…teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (italics mine, Matthew 28:18-20). Everything means everything.
If we separate Jesus from the Bible, then we can “love” however we want. Do the following teachings of Jesus sound like love to the modern ear?
Those who don’t put their faith in Jesus will definitely not be saved (John 14:6). Jesus describes hell as an eternal place of fire and torment for unbelievers (Luke 16:19-31); he speaks of people being condemned to hell (Matthew 23:33). He even tells us to fear the one (God) who has the authority to throw us into hell. (Matthew 10:28; Luke 12:4-5)
Jesus affirms that sex and marriage are only between one man and one woman. (Matthew 19:4-6)
Getting remarried after divorce is adultery (unless the initial divorce was a result of the other spouse committing adultery). (Matthew 19:9)
If you have looked at a man or woman lustfully, you have committed adultery. (Matthew 5:28)
There’s a lot more we could include in this list. This is just a sampling of teachings today’s “Everything is permissible” Church (see 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 for that reference) doesn’t have a category for (a different list could be written for the biblically conservative Church who isn’t loving their poor, refugee, and immigrant neighbors). While we must love LGBTQ individuals and be sympathetic toward their struggle, I get very tired of the attempted Christian argument that God wouldn’t restrict who you can love (have sex with), when in Matthew 19:4-6 God does exactly that. While we don’t rejoice in people going to hell, I get very tired of the Christian argument that God is so loving that none will go to hell or that it doesn’t exist, when God says explicitly otherwise.
A friend on Facebook is always posting about how God’s love is open and affirming toward homosexual sex relationships and shame on the conservative Church for being so unloving. This same friend just divorced her husband when he was trying desperately to make the marriage work. Yet we are all about love? Love being a difficult, lifelong, one-flesh commitment or love meaning I can sleep with whoever I want. Because that sounds really tough. Not sure who would ever be drawn to that.
Maybe Jesus was so confused because he was a 1st century Jew that everything he said was primitive and wrong and bias and he just couldn’t overcome this to say something that was actually a word from God…don’t count on it. Or if that’s your Jesus, good luck!
2 Timothy 4:1-5 is so true:
In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge:2 Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.
Joel B Groat says
Yes. Thank you for this biblical, balanced, and loving approach. It becomes a very shaky foundation for truth when we let our, or other people’s, circumstances drive our understanding or interpretation of Scripture. It is not contradictory or mutually exclusive to both affirm the need to love people and be in caring relationship with them, while not affirming or accepting practices or beliefs that are not in sync with the teaching of Jesus and those he chose and empowered to take His message to the rest of the world. I would also suggest it’s not unloving to want to help those we care about see how some practices and beliefs are hurting them and others and detract from the intimate relationships God intended for them to know and enjoy.
Noah Filipiak says
Thanks Joel! You probably already read this, but for others following this thread, I wrote more in depth about the specific point you bring up here: https://www.noahfilipiak.com/ellen-page-vs-chris-pratt-hillsong-on-lgbt-stance-raises-question-can-you-love-someone-you-disagree-with/
I’ve got some Christian friends who toss out a lot of the Old Testament cause the OT God doesn’t square with Jesus. You’ve blogged about it before. Tbh, it IS hard apart from faith to reconcile. But after listening to their views of God, I always come away missing the awesome holiness of God along with not being able to reconcile so much of the NT. I have trouble believing that it’s God’s love in me if I’m not loving His truth.
Besides, the love of God, if it’s real from God, isn’t only feelings in our soul, it’s spiritual reality of who God is. I think one of the most sublime promises is found in Jesus’ prayer, “…that the love with which you have loved me may be in them…” To love Jesus with the love the Father has for Him, to live that reality, is so far beyond and before how we should love each other. If we know that love, we’ll get the rest right.
Jesus said if we love Him we’ll keep His word. Question is, from Jesus, do you love Me?
Noah Filipiak says
Thanks Alan. And you’re right, there is some tough stuff to digest in the OT. And you’re right that lots of Christians have throw out God’s holiness / our depravity. I think this is one of the biggest things crippling the Church right now, and something I’m quite passionate about. We can’t fully receive / experience the richness of the depths of God’s mercy UNLESS WE REALIZE WE DON’T DESERVE IT. Otherwise it’s not mercy; and it’s not a gift. It becomes a paycheck we think we are worthy of, and there is so much entitlement tied up in that.
Thank you for your wisdom. You wisdom is far ahead of your age. And, oh by the way. Taylor sounds a little like the Taylor I knew when he was a kid. Love you and your family to the moon and back. Hopefully will catch up with you in August when we come to MI. Love Dennis and Katie.
Noah Filipiak says
Thank you Dennis and Katie! We would love to see you in August — we’ll probably be living in Grand Rapids then!
Rebecca Guei says
Thank you so much for this piece. God bless you for it. I was starting to doubt my understanding of the Bible because of this trendy love in the church. Many of my friends adhere to the movement and I just don’t know how to help them see better. Would you have any advice for me? What do I say? What do I do?
Noah Filipiak says
Hi Rebecca, thank you for your comment and your question. I’ll do a blog post on this soon, it’s a very important question. See my comment to Alan above for a few snippets. In a nutshell, the only way to truly appreciate all God has done for us, is to realize we don’t deserve it. That God is super holy / perfect / powerful and we are super sinful / undeserving. So when he reaches down to us on the cross to save us, it’s a HUGE chasm he is bridging. It’s a huge deal that he’d love us that much. It’s a huge love. Since God is holy, he gets to define what sin is and isn’t. So once we think we get to define what sin is and isn’t, we think we have the authority of God and we reject his authority, which is really rejecting his holiness.
If you are into podcasts at all, here’s a couple I did on the concept: https://noahfilipiak.podbean.com/e/11118-episode-9-why-most-accountability-doesnt-work-the-importance-of-both-wings-of-gods-airplane-judgment-mercy/
Kim Klepper says
How refreshing to read a solid, biblically-based refutation of the “love is love” line! Sometimes it can be very lonely to keep believing that not all love is the same and some forms are even dishonoring to God. (Those involved in a polygamous or polyamorous relationship would say they all love each other, but I don’t believe that God would agree it’s right or healthy.) I’m going to keep this essay in mind the next time I’m in a conversation with someone who supports the open and affirming stance of so many churches.
Noah Filipiak says
Hi Kim, sorry for my delay on replying here. Thank you for that encouragement!