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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Love, Grace, Inclusion in Christianity. What they are and what they are not

Recently, I was embroiled in an argument regarding what I saw to be apostasy, which I called out and challenged quite plainly.  I definitely took a no nonsense approach to the subject.  I was calling out a couple beliefs that were wrong according to the Bible.  I didn't name call or insult those who were expressing those beliefs, but again I was quite firm in my non acceptance to those beliefs.  In doing so, I was charged with lacking inclusion and also it was insinuated that my heart was not filled with love and grace.  So given that charge, I figure it's time to address this since I see it quite often among modern Christian circles.

First, let's start with the good stuff.  Love.  God is love.  God IS love.  Love is God's essence.  Love is the force that drives God's goodness.  Without love we have nothing.  God gave up His only son out of love for us.  Heck, I'll even go a step further and say love is indeed an actual force in the universe.  It's immeasurable by standard means, but it connects us in such a strong way that it breaks the cold paradigm of standard scientific laws regarding self preservation and survival.  It's what can elevate us from the natural to the divine.  Love is just plain awesome.

Grace.  Grace is fantastic.  Grace is a symptom of God's perfect love.  Grace is what allows us flawed creatures to continue living.  Grace is what keeps the world from tearing itself apart.  Grace allows the aggrieved to forgive the repentant.  Grace gives the undeserved the chance to turn back toward God.  Grace is an important tool in our every day lives that helps extend His Kingdom.

Both love and grace are foundational to Christian doctrine.  Jesus expressed love and grace many times throughout the gospel while Paul made it very clear how important love is in 1 Corinthians 13.  Their worth is never to be underestimated.  However, I believe many in today's modern Christian circles are interpreting love and grace to be something it isn't, which I'll get to in a minute.

As you'll notice, I didn't bring up inclusion above.  That's because I wanted to address the lack of inclusion charge directly.

The biggest problem I see with the whole "lack of inclusion", as well as the application of love and grace, is the inability of people to separate a person from their actions.  This is quite common among those who follow a liberal ideology.  Leftists so often identify themselves by their beliefs to a point that they're virtually inseparable.  Thus to call out their apostasy or sinful behavior is also seen as an indictment of them as a person.  To suggest they turn away from such things is, in their minds, an attempt to "change who they are".  

Some may read this and be confused.  Aren't our beliefs and what we do make who we are?  Modern culture would have us believe this.  But this is a lie from hell itself.  We are God's children.  He made each and every one of us and knows us personally.  Each of us has the capacity to do wrong or right thanks to the freedom of choice God has given us.  And while our choices and what we do can set our path and influence how others react around us, we're always one step away from turning back to God.  And each of us are a soul worth fighting for and redeeming.  The person, the soul, is us.  We are not drunkards, liars, racists, killers, and jerks.  We are precious creatures that may have done those things, but it's not who we are.  We are so much more than our actions and beliefs.

This is important to understand when it comes to inclusion.  The modern day leftist influenced version of inclusion means accepting the person AND their beliefs and actions.  To be inclusive in their minds, you have to accept not only them, but their potentially non biblical beliefs.  But that's not the inclusion Christians should be seeking.  The inclusion we must practice is one that is inclusive of every person, since their soul is definitely worth fighting for, but not one that accepts their sin or non biblical beliefs.  Christianity should always accept anyone willing to become a Christian, but that does not mean we'd need to go along with a belief that isn't biblical, such as not believing Jesus is the only way to Heaven.  In fact, it's our duties as Christians to point out such wrong beliefs and guide them back to the truth.  Doing otherwise, such as letting them continue to believe something not biblical, risks them staying disconnected from God.

In other words, we must be inclusive and accept the person, but that doesn't extend to their beliefs or actions.

This brings us back to love and grace.  There seems to be this belief that hate and love are on opposite ends of some monolithic emotional scale where one is either filled with love or filled with hate.  That love is universally good while hate is universally bad or evil.  I cannot stress how wrong this type of thinking is.  Let me explain...

When it comes to love, I'm well aware of what I just said about love being a force of God.  And that's still true.  However, it doesn't preclude flawed humans such as ourselves from loving things that are wicked or evil.  In fact, one of our biggest ways we become disconnected from God is to transfer our love of Him to something else such as ourselves or money.  A heart filled with love that is not directed toward God or our neighbors, the two greatest commandments Jesus gave us, may very well not be good at all.

As for hate, the answer is even easier.  God hates sin.  God hates evil.  God hates wickedness.  So if God can both love and hate, does that not mean we have the same capacity?  Just like God, we are capable of loving and hating while also being wrong or right.  The key difference is where that love and hate is directed.

And this leads us back to the ability to separate the person from the sin/belief/actions.  Love can be directed toward the person and hate can be directed toward the sin.  That is not wrong.  It's not a contradiction.  That is biblical.

So this is what love isn't.  While love is kind, love isn't simply being nice as to not upset someone.  A loving person at times must indeed tell someone when they're wrong.  A loving person must oppose sin and apostasy.  Part of love is speaking truth, though being kind about it.   Love is not refusing to speak truth because that truth might upset the other person.  It's the opposite of love by allowing that person to believe you accept their false belief or sin.   Love isn't some warm fuzzy get along hugathon where no one raises a contrary word.  Believing someone that speaks out against apostasy or sin doesn't have love is like believing a parent doesn't love their children when they discipline them for wrongdoing.

Now let's talk about what grace isn't.  Grace is not acceptance of sin.  While grace will forgive someone of wrong doing, thinking or believing, it does not mean the person bestowing grace accepts the sinful behavior or wrong thinking.  God has forgiven all of us countless times, but do you think He's fine with you continuing to commit the same sin that He just forgave?  Of course not!  He's willing to forgive you, the person, for committing the sin.  But He doesn't accept the sin, the action, itself.  He actually hates it.  So while I may have the capacity to forgive someone who may think that they can get to Heaven without Jesus, it does not mean, nor should I, accept such a belief.  In fact, you can make the case accepting such a belief is deliberately leading someone astray (since they would know better), which is a big no no in the Bible.

Many modern day Christians struggle with the separation of person and action. As long as they continue to believe the lie that a person is what they've done or believe, they will continue to struggle with what it really means to love, bestow grace, and be inclusive as God wants us to be.  However, if they follow the example of Christ by loving the person and hating the sin, they will be act in far more clarity and accordance with the Bible.