Writing to free the prisoner of one idea, crossing the bridge of paradox to truth, serving the legacies of Chesterton and Lewis who defended their faith in Christ
* DISCLAIMER: The following post has a rating of forthright. It means what is being written has already crossed the minds of many, been spoken about in emails, facemails, and privately in conversation and over the phone. it minces no words, but its expression is respectful, gentle but clear. It’s purposes is to be forthright and to get us over the hump of the hidden conversation and bring out into the light what needs to be said.
When the Christian uses the term “unconditional love” he has most likely picked it up out of the mental laziness of popular consent, because if he thinks about it carefully, two things will emerge: 1) God always has conditions of behavior we must meet in order to remain in his love and 2) what he really means when he says it is this: God’s love is so expansive it is beyond our fallen capacity to immediately grasp. As Lewis once defined love: “God’s love is more stern and splendid than mere kindness.”
It is the post-modernist and moral relativist and those “progressive christians” who really believe in “unconditional love”. For the rest of us, it is most likely a case of not understanding what we are saying when we use the term “unconditional love” to describe how God loves us.
The Bible is full of proofs that follow a conditional statement flow chart that a programmer might use to illustrate quite clearly that there are conditions one must meet in order to have a relationship and maintain it with God. In other words, one cannot grow yet remain an immoral infant and expect God to overlook it. That’s not what grace is about. As Bonhoeffer reminds us, that’s cheap. It’s worthless. It’s in the tension of “exerting ourselves vigorously to get in through the narrow gate” that we see more clearly what grace is about: It’s expansive but not unconditional. Murderers, adulterers, cowards, liars, men who lie with men (in the bodily sense – and this also includes women with women) “will not inherit God’s Kingdom”. That, my friends, is a condition. And endorsing the phrase “unconditional love” has set up a confusion that has opened an heretical door for those who claim that God is with them and endorses their homosexuality because what could be wrong with “loving someone”, or their unlawful remarriage based on adultery because “God wanted them to be with their ‘soul-mate’ and be happy”, or their abortion of a child because “they were not ready and God understood that”.
God is nothing if not clear about these things. Yet today’s misuse of language has led many (through what appears to be the “angel of light” of language) to think that anyone who opposes these behaviors is not as loving as our “unconditionally loving” God is. Is it any wonder then that the church appears to many in the world the way it does: full of filthy behaviors, hurt and scattered sheep, and objects of ridicule by the secular world? Remember it was the secular world who came up with the concept of not having any conditions about love in regard to behavior.
As regards behavior as its affects on the human psychology, I have had a number of exposures to the homosexual community over the years, some as social friends when I didn’t know any better of what God meant when he said these activites were not clean and some as persons who did me great kindness when even those I knew in the church wouldn’t. Why wouldn’t they? Because there was a general behavior there of those who claimed christian standing and saw me as a burden that couldn’t compete with other pleasure oriented activities they wanted to do more. – and here I am reminded of Neil Postman’s book “Amusing Ourselves To Death”. Does this happen under the roof of every church building? No, but it has been a general trend that we are not supposed to talk about. Unfortunately, the cat is out of the bag and a number of Christians are talking about it on their own blogs (The Voice of One Crying Out in the Wilderness and Joel Miller being two of them) . I take this as a sign that we need to better as it matches up with a number of scriptures on the subject. But we will leave that for another day.
At any rate, the homosexual community capitalized on this need and reached out to all those on the fringe…. the ones that the church had been directed to reach out to and in too many cases had abandoned. That it has been a rather successful campaign is self-evident.
Under such circumstances – and do not underestimate the power of redefining words, of secular kindness and of family connection and of friendship – this emerging normalization of what is perverse has been and will continue to be very hard to fight against with the focus being on the wrong definition of love. We are dealing with a community who is more interested in acceptance rather than obedience (and the term “unconditional” fits this agenda) , who have seen that recalcitrance dominates patience, who have held the word “love” over the heads of those who are closest to them and redefined it by using “unconditional” as a qualifier.
At the same time I was considering these thoughts and the their logical conclusion, Newsweek (May 2012) posted a cover with the President on it Not that I need call attention to it, but if you have seen it, note the message that the halo in the picture of the President on the cover of is sending. We are now being told that actions like these are what define “moral”: that homosexual unions are the same as marriage between a Christian man and Christian woman . Recall again, what Lewis and Orwell and Mills have warned us about when language is used to send a message rather than to be clear.
In a subsequent discussion about definitions and scriptural understanding with Jeremy Hodges, an evangelist from Liberty, TX, I agreed with him that we need to stick with Bible definitions and not vernacular when it comes to these issues. For there is a danger, sometimes hidden, in the vernacular when it comes to God’s Word when we try to explain things already explained in scripture with the popular concepts of our age. Sometimes out efforts are not clarion calls -”Yea, cool and clear and sudden, as a bird sings in the grey” as Chesterton observed. Sometimes we create dissonances of what we really mean when we adopt the vernacular.
When we talk about mercy do we really mean indulgence? When we talk about happiness do we really mean pleasure? When we talk about love do we really mean something that will do and decide the very best for the object of it – even if that action – and love is an action – causes some degree of pain or cost to our loved one and oneself? Do we also really mean that loyalty and obedience are to be intractable features of this definition of love? If so, then going down the path of “unconditional” as a qualifier of the term godly love is a slippery slope: very easy for anyone to push you skidding in multiple wrong directions of behavior and have them labeled as acceptable.