Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love.
(1 Corinthians 16:13)
Paul counsels the Corinthians to stand firm and yet do everything in love. I find this passage perfect for the crossroads at which the Church stands.
One road seems to lead to lead to conflict, the other, compliance. One group of Christians (seem to) want to be on guard and stand firm against certain issues while the other type of Christian seems to believe "doing everything in love" means accepting everything.
There is so much to sort out: what is really going on, and why, and what should I do about it? How can one make a determination without spending half one's life researching, and probably making a lot of folks angry in the process?
It feels like an onslaught of issues and demands. Many argue that compassion means accepting all of it.
Should that include accepting your child wearing a mask to protect others from a virus you don't believe qualifies as a pandemic?
Should that include taking a knee to anyone other than God?
Should that include humoring delusion and deception?
Many pastors seem to be taking a soft tone against this onslaught but the reality is that we are each individually accountable to God. Each of us will have to answer for our decisions. When did we stand firm, and when did we show love?
How do we show love?
I think most people actually know the answer to these questions. The Holy Spirit makes himself heard. But if you have a pastor, politician or pop culture figure justifying a passive stance, it can be too easy to rationalize doing so yourself.
It is easy to preach love. It is easy to counsel two parties in conflict to "just get along" or "turn the other cheek."
It is much harder to unpack why the conflict even began and what could realistically be done to resolve it (rather than stuffing it under the mattress).
When Jesus counsels to love your neighbor as yourself, he means it. When he counsels not to pick up your sword, he means it. When he says turn the other cheek, he means it.
But he also spent most of his ministry challenging hypocrisy. That is the main reason fellow Jews conspired to have him sentenced to death. He told inconvenient truths.
The conflicts we face today are not what they seem on the surface. We are not arguing over how to address a deadly pandemic, we are arguing over whether there is a deadly pandemic. We are not arguing about how to address systemic racism, we are arguing over whether white people are somehow worse than everyone else. We are not arguing over how to accommodate different "gender identities," but why we would even want to.
We can't resolve issues we haven't correctly identified. Our country is living in a marriage torn apart by lies. Good marriage counselors don't tell a struggling couple simply to love, they help them unpack the argument. You can only heal after you've identified what you're healing.
Love requires the courage to stand firm, not out of stubbornness, but conviction.
Love, not by shrugging off lies and corruption, but by standing firm.