Thoughts on Love and Doctrine
It was a beautiful spring day, early in the year, so the weather was a particular gift. My wife and I were attending a wedding and we were without our children. My wife had gone through some effort to find a flattering outfit and she looked beautiful. It was going to be a really nice weekend.
I travel in conservative Christian circles. Often things are off limits or frowned upon as being ungodly. There are the favorites, tobacco, alcohol, R rated movies, and such. We are also homeschoolers—have been for over 20 years. Early on, many of our friends looked and acted the part of the prototypic homeschool family. I attended a very conservative Bible college in which my hair had to be a certain length, I had to dress within the confines of a dress code and interactions with members of the opposite sex was heavily regulated. Needless to say I have met my share of deeply convicted individuals as well as some pretty judgmental ones.
The wedding we attended was that of a friend's son. My friend travels in the same conservative circles. Many of the activities and attitudes listed above he espouses, not out of requirement, but out of conviction. I hold my friend in high regard. His convictions about these things are genuine, motivated out of a desire to please God in his daily living. What was interesting about the wedding was that the bride's family didn't hold all of the same values. They wanted to serve alcohol and have dancing at the wedding.
I was not privy to how my friend negotiated these issues with his son and future in-laws. I do know that they had alcohol and dancing at the wedding. I also know that some of my other friends did not attend the wedding specifically because these things were part of the festivities. Most importantly, I remember well, a brief conversation that I had with my friend about his new in-laws. He’d come to know these people and had developed a real appreciation for the love they had for God. He noted that he had learned some things through this whole experience. While he did not specifically mention the alcohol or dancing, it was evident that the whole set of circumstances had given him a reason to re-examine how he looked at these types of activities and the Christians who would participate in them.
The need to hold to sound doctrine is pretty evident in the Scriptures. I Timothy 4:6 reminds us that we need to be nourished in “Good Doctrine” which we have followed. Titus 1:9 reminds us that elders should be able to hold to the faithful word, which he has been taught so that he may be able to exhort and convict with the use of sound doctrine. And Galatians 1:6-10 pronounces those who pervert the Gospel through false teaching to be anathema, or accursed. We should not condone or even tolerate bad doctrine.
The difficulty I see is that too often the concerns about Christian liberties gets confused with sound doctrine. I like to attend an Independent Baptist Church on the occasional Sunday evening. I can promise you that 4 out of 5 messages will mention the evils of alcohol. These people are sincere, God loving, evangelically minded believers. They are also convinced that consumption of alcohol is a sin – period. To them this is sound doctrine. They wouldn't call it that, but it is a part of their understanding of living for Christ and those who think differently are compromising with the world.
Of course, by now there may be someone reading who is convinced I am advocating drinking, but that is not the case. I don't drink. Not because I think it is wrong, but for reasons of a personal nature and for the sake of testimony. You see, John 13:34-35 tells us that we need to love one another as Christ loved us. By this, men will know that we are His disciples. I think this is what my friend was getting at when he said he had learned some things. He was forced to get to know them beyond the surface appearance and had come to love them.
Romans chapter 14 discusses the issue of Christian liberties. We are enjoined to refrain from judging one another. We are instructed that we are God's servants and that as such we need to tend to our own conduct since we will be answering for it. It is verses 6 and 7 that I would like to focus on. They read:
He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord: and he that eateth, eateth unto the
Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, unto the Lord he eateth not, and
giveth God thanks. For none of us liveth to himself, and none dieth to himself.
The crux of these verses is the intent of the heart. Whether we participate in a Christian liberty or not is unto the Lord. The particular of the behavior is much less important than how it is motivated by our relationship with God. I think my friend had seen the heart of these people and their liberties were no longer an offense to him. My friend is mature enough as a Christian not to be moved off of his own convictions about these issues but wise enough to be challenged to rethink how he evaluated others in their liberties. He could now see the genuine heart and desire for God these people had without compromise. Their faith was sound and mature, despite being willing to engage in behavior that many in my circle of Christian friends would at the very least frown upon.
Are we encouraged to confront those in sin? Galatians 6:1 and following makes it plain that we have that responsibility. But I also know that anything that we do without love has no merit (I Cor. 13:1-3).
I was recently disheartened to see a Christian woman brought to sobbing tears over how she was handled by her Church. While I do not know the particulars of the situation, I am convinced that one's Church should not elicit this type of response. Too often our judgment of others is not about love for the brethren, but out of a sense of righteousness. If we really knew the people that we were judging, if we really loved them, then I am convinced that our actions and attitudes would be different.
Would we still confront, convict of sin? Of course, we would because we loved our brother or sister in Christ. Would our attitude and approach be different? Without a doubt. I think we would care a lot less about the liberty issues that so often are the center of the judgmental behavior and be genuinely concerned about the hearts and souls of those around us. We would be the salt and light that Christ calls us to be.
Troy is a Software Engineer during the week and a Christian Counselor on the side. He’s been married for 25 years to Belinda and they share the blessing of homeschooling their 8 children, ranging in age from 7 to 22. He has an undergraduate degree in Bible Studies and a Graduate Degree in Clinical Psychology. He and his family enjoy long vacations at the beach.
Troy originally developed The Homework Keeper to help youth he counseled manage the stress of completing homework on time. The Homeschool Organizer was a natural outgrowth, utilizing his experience with his own kids. He and his wife are very active in the homeschool community providing products and resources such as Homesat Helper and Belinda’s Buzz.