Love is...

Love. What do you think of when you hear that word? For most people I would bet it evokes images of beauty, peace, tranquility. Cute little puppies (or kittens), fields of flowers, little pink hearts, etc. If you are a Christian, you might think of first Corinthians 4-7:

4. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

The overriding theme here always being niceness. And they'd be right - I mean, that is what the Bible says up there, right? Some people even go a step farther, to draw a line between "love" and "correction". To illustrate this point, let me give you an example from my church. The subject of discussion was hell, and one member made the point that talk about hell was what brought him to Christ. That is, people telling him about the path he was on and where it led essentially scared him enough to look into it, and come to the truth. To which another member replied "That's all well and good, but God has called ME to love", with the obvious implication that love and talk of hell are completely separate and never the two shall meet.

And that's all well and good. I mean, love IS all that. The difficulty here is that love is more than JUST that. Let me draw you an analogy to show what I mean.

Imagine, for a moment, that you are walking down a path. You have never walked down this path before - you are just out exploring. While walking you come to a pit in the middle of the path. While you are there a blind man comes along. You two get to talking, and you discover that he has walked this path every day for the past 20 years. When you ask about the pit, he insists that there is no pit. You, of course, know differently - there most certainly is a pit.

So let me ask you this: what is the loving thing to do here? To hear some people talk, it would be to let him continue to believe there is no pit - simply say "well, I don't think the same as you, but I'm not going to say you're wrong". After all, he has walked that path hundreds of times, while you have never been there before. Maybe you had a bad mushroom for lunch and are hallucinating. Perhaps it's a mirage or optical illusion. Who are you to say you are right and he is wrong? How can you be sure your interpretation of what you are perceiving is the correct one, and not his? After all, in his belief system, there is no pit. The Bible instructs us not to judge - wouldn't telling him he is wrong and you are right be judging him?

However, I like to think most reasonable people would not agree with that. Rather, in this situation, the loving thing is to correct the blind man. Do everything in your power to convince him there IS, in fact, a pit there, and gently guide him around it. Rant and rave at him if need be, but, if at all possible, prevent him from falling into the pit- whatever it takes. THAT'S love. Sure, you could be all agreeable, all "well, what's right for me may not be right for him", but it's not going to accomplish anything. And no one, hearing what happened, would commend you for being loving if you just stood by and let him walk into the pit he can't see, simply because he didn't believe it was there and you didn't want to risk being judgmental.

The point here is that sometimes the kindest, most loving thing you can do is to correct someone. Tell them in no uncertain terms that, regardless of what they believe, they are about to walk into a pit. Do everything in your power to convince them of it. Hell is the pit here (rev 20), and if we DON'T show people that don't believe in it that they are wrong, then we are being no more loving than the person who lets the blind guy walk into the pit that he doesn't believe in. Sometimes showing people the right path requires taking care of the sick or injured (Luke 10:34). Sometimes it requires making a whip of cords and beating it into them (John 2:15 - remember, Jesus, being God, is love, and as such all he does is love). Sometimes it requires eating with them when no one else will (Mat 9:10). Sometimes it requires calling them hypocrites (mat 23:13,14,15) and brood of vipers (mat 3:7). But in any case, you can be assured of one thing: if you are willing to be all things to all people that by ALL means you might win some (1cor 9:22), that IS love.

Israel Brewster 2011-2016