By Jeff Arnette
I have been a member of the church for many years now. One of the issues that has caused problems for the church for generations is finding balance between the truth about doctrine and the truth about love. We are really good at searching out the truth, understanding the nuances of how it works, and determining what is important or not. Yet we are not as good at understanding how it works within the context of Christ-likeness and a love for others. I have learned that having the truth of Christ without the heart of Christ is a dangerous weapon that often hurts others.
Jesus was and is the perfect example of what it means to hold to the absolute truth of God without allowing that to cause him to hurt others. In John 4, we have an outstanding story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman. When the conversation began she calls Jesus a Jew and implies that He is no different than all the rest. By the end of the conversation she was convinced that He was the Messiah and went into town to tell others. He was able to talk about her inaccurate worship of God, about her disastrous marriages, and the man she was currently living with and yet did not offend her to the point that she walked away without listening to Him.
How was He able to confront her sins without turning her off from listening? How was He able to address such obvious sins in such an obvious way without making her walk away?
The answer is as obvious as Jesus' approach. He loved her and her soul. He did not speak to her about her sins because she was a sinner and needed to change. He didn't speak to her because it was something that needed to be done. He spoke to her about her sins because He loved her so much that the thought of her dying and going to hell was unbearable. He reached out to her with all the love that He could contain, with hands that would soon be pierced that proved His love.
Church, when we learn to love like Jesus; we will be able to preach like Jesus, and reach people like Jesus. The key to it all is not truth vs. love but the truth with all the love we can contain for a people that will die and be condemned to a devil’s hell if we don't reach them.
That is why Jesus Himself said that the greatest command was to love God with everything you have and to love your neighbor as yourself (Luke 10:27). Anything less is not Christ-like and will not be effective at reaching others. Please take some time and let these words sink into your mind and heart.
John 3:17 "For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him."
If God didn't act because we were sinners and stood condemned but because He loved us so much, surely we can strive to do the same.
- Jeff Arnette preaches for the Central Haywood church of Christ, Clyde, NC. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://centralhaywoodchurchofchrist.com