Love

When Love Divorces Doctrine and Unity Rejects Truth: A Response to End-Time Ecumenism

It is evident that leading neo-evangelicals believe that our main goal is to eliminate doctrinal distinctives and to emphasize unity among those claiming to be believers.

One of the basic ideas of today’s philosophy of ecumenical evangelism is that love is more important than doctrine. Ecumenical evangelists say that doctrine divides, whereas love unifies. What does the Bible say? Is it true that in the New Testament love is more important than doctrine, or truth?

In the so-called “love chapter,” we are told: “Now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love [agape]” (NKJV, 1 Cor. 13:13). Some say—“That settles it: love is supreme!” But when we examine this chapter more carefully, we discover that truth is also mentioned. In v. 6 we are told that love “rejoices in the truth.” In other words, faith, hope and love are virtues, but truth has an altogether different status. It is the frame of reference, the foundation, the atmosphere without which virtues such as love cannot exist at all.

Love “rejoices in the truth.” Why? Because without truth to define, interpret, protect, guide and channel it, love can become a total disaster. We dare not place truth on the same level as virtues. Virtues would shrivel up and die if it were not for truth.

Here is an example from the natural world. We cannot imagine life on this planet without water. Water is absolutely essential for life—as long as it stays within proper channels, such as canals, aqueduct and pipes. But when water gets out of control, it is the second greatest catastrophe that can happen to this planet—second only to fire. On the one hand, it is an absolute blessing, but on the other hand it can be a total disaster. So it is with love.

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Why Christians Sin: a Failure of Fear, a Failure of Love

It is an all-too familiar story. A pastor was forced to resign from the church when his affair with a staff member came to light. Another church was devastated. Another set of believers, both young and old, was left to wonder what had happened to the man they had loved and followed—a man who had led many of them to the Lord, baptized their children, conducted their weddings, visited them in hospital and prayed with them for their needs. There was no question of his guilt; the actions were admitted and indefensible. But many longed for an explanation. Why did it happen? How did it happen?

The temptations to sin that we face are as numerous and varied as devilish ingenuity and human depravity can conspire to concoct. And after the fact, the explanations, rationalizations and excuses are as varied and numerous as those sins. But if we take the Scripture seriously when it promises that along with each temptation comes “a way to escape” (1 Cor. 10:13), each sin indicates a failure on our part. I believe that, in the final analysis, all sins spring from twin failures—a failure of fear and a failure of love.

“By mercy and truth iniquity is purged, and by the fear of the Lord men depart from evil” (Prov. 16:6).

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Love, Faith and Power

How powerful are love and faith?

Most Junior High girls who are involved in a Bible-oriented church will opine that their favorite chapter is I Corinthians 13, “The Love Chapter.” Few of us would challenge the beauty of the Paul’s eloquence in these verses, especially his crescendo in verse 13, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

The view that love is central to all things, however, is not a given, as some assume. Of the three virtues—faith, hope and love—love is the greatest (for it is built upon faith and hope and thus the highest virtue attainable). When most people in the English speaking world use the word “love,” its image is often disconnected from faith or hope. Such love is not the type of love Paul envisions. Christian love is founded upon Christian faith and hope. Compassion, on the other hand, is commonly practiced throughout the world by people who may have no inkling as to who Jesus is. Lost people often put us to shame with their compassion and willingness to sacrifice.

Despite the glories of love, love is no competitor when contrasted with God. Love is one of God’s many attributes, but expressing love has no power to change people apart from God’s decision to use it. The fact that God can use love—just as God can use our witness to reach the lost—does not mean that the power is in the love itself. Nor is our evangelistic efficacy a result of our witness in itself.

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All You Need is Love, but...

Article first appeared on SI November 20, 2006

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
-Jesus of Nazareth (Matt. 22:37–39, KJV)

All you need is love, all you need is love,
All you need is love, love, love is all you need.
-The Beatles (“All You Need Is Love”) 1

Were John, Paul, George, and Ringo, 1900 years after Jesus of Nazareth, reiterating His message to a new generation? Is this similarity evidence that the same basic message underlies all world religions and worldviews? That after we strip away all the external, all the ceremonial, all the legal, all the theological and metaphysical considerations, every religion pursues the same basic values, usually including “love”?

That all religions are basically the same is an idea held both by the man on the street and in the halls of academia. Consider what Paul Tillich wrote:

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