Jesus’ command to His disciples is “Love one another. As I have loved you so you must love one another.” Love is to be the distinguishing mark of Christ followers. “By this, everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)
So why are American Christians such “haters”? In public discourse, whether social media, talking-head news shows or conservative commentary, the loudest “Christian” voices tend to be indefatigable critics eager to cast stones.
It ought not be so.
This week, I read an article in Atlantic magazine in which self-described Christians criticized singer Lauren Daigle for performing on the Ellen DeGeneres Show. Ellen is an openly gay woman. Daigle’s haters argued that a Christian has no business fraternizing with a lesbian.
Never mind that Jesus ate and drank with sinners and social outcasts, sometimes in their own homes, which earned Him the wrath of Pharisees, those professional religious people for whom He reserved His strongest condemnations.
A radio host later pressed Daigle to opine on whether homosexual relationships are sinful. She said, “I don’t know” with minimal elaboration. Whereupon she was widely condemned as a coward, a compromiser, a Judas to the faith.
These critics act as though homosexuals have a monopoly on sin. Jesus came to save sinners of whom Paul the apostle said, “I am chief.” Paul never forgot who he had been: a persecutor of Christians who hunted them down, dragged them to jail and approved of their murder, watching as Stephen, the first martyr, was stoned to death.
Each of us has a sinful past. Writing to the Corinthians about the kinds of people who will not inherit eternal life, Paul added: “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Cor 6:11)
Daigle was accused of fraternizing with a sinner. However, the prohibition of Scripture is that believers “not associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard or swindler – not even to eat with such a one.” (I Cor 5:11, emphasis my own)
Disassociation is how to deal with people who call themselves Christian brothers while living a lifestyle of sin. Paul plainly states he doesn’t mean believers are to disassociate from “the immoral people of this world… for then you would have to get out of the world and human society altogether.” (I Cor 5:10)
Clearly, Jesus wants His people in the world. “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.” (John 17:15-16)
Advent is a good time to remember that salvation began with love, not hate:
“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world but to save the world through Him.” (John 3:16-17)