Saturday, October 26, 2013

Loving Others Into Hell

Quite often, my posts begin with a title before any words are written.  The title is placed in the little box where it belongs, I know the message I want to convey, but the page can remain blank for days, weeks, or even longer while I wait for the words to build in my mind.  This particular post has been graced with a title for over a month, and it's a doozy, don't you think?  I decided it needed an explanation and found myself gravitating to the computer today to fill in that blank page.

But before you get started reading my thoughts, stop for a moment and meditate on those three words.................................................................................................................................................................................................

Are you done?

Let's get started on why I chose such a startling title, and whether or not you are as guilty as I often am by its implication or, perhaps better put, insinuation.

If I had used each word individually, they could be viewed as innocuous, or less harmful.   Or if I had only used the first two words as my title, there would be the appearance of a warm and compassionate post filled with encouragement to "love your neighbor as yourself" (Matt 22:38-40).   But by adding the last two words, the title then becomes a little more threatening to our sensibilities.  It implies a negative connotation, creating an undertone of suspicion that the writer of this blog may be going just a little too far with what some perceive as finger-pointing, or today's popular usage of the accusation, "being judgmental."  However, what is possibly not being considered by the "judge not" crowd is that I am not only pointing the finger at some, but also right back at myself.

Are you confused?  If so, let me explain.

Each and every Christian has unsaved friends and family members.   If we were true to ourselves, we would even acknowledge that as we walk through a crowd of strangers, our eyes are incapable of landing on someone who isn't in need of hearing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  As I sit here writing this post, there are two men, one I've known for over 30 years, who are working on a foundation for a new addition to our house.  I'm as positive as we can be that neither are saved.  Their words and actions (their talk and walk) give enough evidence to assert that claim.  But what I am not positive about is if they have ever heard about their desperate need for salvation.

With that question bouncing around in my head, the burden then becomes mine.  Why should it be my burden?

God may have placed them before me for a reason, other than a new utility room.

Although I don't know the young man that is with my old friend, I can honestly say that I love them both.  Not in the physical or emotional sense that the world would understand.  Rather, I love them for what they lack.  I love them for what they sorely need.  I am given a glimpse with my eyes into their lives, I am able to hear with my ears their sins, and know that unless I or someone else speaks up and tells them about God's law and the death it can bring and why man has fallen from grace and how he can be restored to life and tell them of the One who secured that for us, they will leave this world without hope and suffer eternal punishment in Hell.

But fear prevents me because I don't want to offend, to anger, to be rejected, to be scoffed at, to become that "religious nut," or to possibly lose a long-time friendship, or fail to establish a new one.  And when it comes to our unsaved family members who exhibit all of the above, there is even less willingness to speak up for Jesus, because to be alienated from them is the worst possible scenario in this life.  We don't want to upset the apple cart of family continuity.  We say we love them too much to break the family apart, or to be avoided at family gatherings.  But do we truly love them enough?   Do we love them so much that we would be willing to sacrifice good relationships with them by boldly giving the prescription they desperately need and that would cure them of the soul destroying disease of depravity and eternal death?

Sadly, the answer with most of us is usually "No."  We would rather that someone else step up and do for us what we ourselves should have done.

In other words, by our failure to obey the LORD Jesus' command to go out and make disciples of men (Matt 28:18-20), we are loving our friends and family straight into Hell.

By now, I'm sure you've caught on to the subject matter.

The greatest love we can demonstrate is to give the Gospel to everyone, regardless of their relationship to us, or the situation we find ourselves in with them.  To remain silent is a gross exhibition of hatred in its worst form.   When it comes to family and friends we say we love and would do anything for, it could safely be said that the love we have for them is shallow and without substance.  We love their sense of humor.  We love being with them.  We love their little quirks.  And we love that they also love us.

But that's not enough.

There are four types of "love" in the Greek language which are used throughout Scripture:

  1. "Storge," a term rarely used in ancient text, denotes affection mainly between family members.
  2. "Philia" or "phileo" is used to demonstrate loyalty to friends, family, and community and must include virtue, equality, and familiarity.
  3. "Eros" is physical, passionate love that compels one to sensual desire and longing.  It's the type of love described as "love at first sight;" romantic, pure emotion without the balance of logic.  Although the word is usually used in the context of sexual desire, it isn't necessarily always attributed to it, but is also used as a deeper form of the "philia" type of love between friends, or an appreciation of the beauty within another person.
  4. "Agape" means love in a spiritual sense, or unconditional love.  It is selfless, expecting nothing in return.  It is a deep and abiding love that expresses God's unconditional love for His wayward children.  The apostle, Paul, wrote of this type of love in 1Corinthians 13:1-13.
Taking these words and definitions into context, in what should be our witness for Christ, most Christians never succeed in getting past the first two Greek words when it comes to the type of love we demonstrate.  We have deep affection for our family and friends.  We are loyal to them and consider them to be equal with us, but that's as far as our professed love goes.  We all too often overlook their sinfulness and depravity.  We roll our eyes, maybe uttering a prayer for their repentance and redemption.  We neglect their absolute need of Jesus Christ and His gift of salvation, and fail them - and Him - time and time again, until it's too late and their destination after they die is fixed for all eternity.

We just don't want the reaction we think we're going to receive.

When I consider my failings and my utter unwillingness to give the Gospel of Jesus Christ to certain family and friends, I understand just how superficial and limited my love is for them.  Honesty with myself compels me to admit it borders on hatred.  Hatred not for their physical presence in the here and now, but for their soul that will continue to live on after their body is mere dust.  We should love as Jesus loved, not the way we think is appropriate and acceptable.  In light of the glaring fact that life on this earth and our relationships with others is fleeting, our primary focus should be on the next life and what those can expect who do not yet know, and are known by, Jesus Christ.

Instead of loving others into Hell through our complacency, unwillingness, or fear of reprisal, we should strive for the same love Jesus Christ demonstrated by faithfully telling them the truth.  And just as equally important, Christians should never think that any specific moment is inappropriate, especially during gatherings of frivolity and gaity, or a few moments together over coffee.  Seconds are ticking by, and the clock that measures the length of a person's life on this earth cannot be paused or stopped.

Three times, Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him.  Three times, Peter responded with a "yes."  But the third time, Peter understood the depth of Christ's question and it grieved him (John 21:15-17).   I am often reminded that my love for Jesus Christ is just as shallow and limited as the love I have for my family and friends.  I shouldn't be able to find the bottom but, ashamedly, I do, just as Peter realized his own lack.  I, too, should be willing to go out and "feed" Jesus' sheep each and every time the opportunity is presented, even if it means Jesus telling me what He told Peter: "Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.”  (John 21:18)

If anything would compel someone to keep silent about the way to salvation, Jesus telling Peter how he would die should have done so.  But Peter understood the vital necessity of the message he would carry and faithfully delivered it.

Peter loved others as Christ loved.  Never faltering.  Never wavering.  Never watering down the Gospel.  And in all circumstances and all situations, Peter never feared rejection or persecution when he gave it.

Thus the meaning for the title of this post.

It took a while to reveal my thoughts and the conviction that I fail my Savior far too often, including the courage to confess it.  Although I am ashamed to admit it, my failures are ever before me.   But I'm thankful Jesus has revealed one more of my endless flaws that needs gentle correction.  Sanctification is a long process, and I am thankful He is patient with me.

If we truly love Jesus as we should, instead of loving others into Hell through our silence, we will love them with the same "agape" He has for us.  Knowing that, with each breath, our unsaved friends and family members are approaching eternity and a fixed location, we must be driven to set aside any discomfort we may have while in their presence and love them into Heaven by giving them the greatest gift a man can receive, regardless of the situation or timing.

So, here I am, pointing the proverbial finger at you and praying for your conviction, as well.  It sure gave me pause, and I hope it does you.

There's a world of sinners waiting for someone to speak up without fear.  Some you know.  Some you won't know until God places them in front of you.  Some will reject it in various ways.  Some will embrace it with joy.  And we should always remember it's not us that does the heart work.  It's the Holy Spirit.  We're just the instrument by which the Good News is given.

As I told my late father once, when he was attempting to give the Gospel to his sisters who were lost in false beliefs, and who cruelly refused to believe what he brought them, "It's not you they were rejecting, but the Holy Spirit Who sent you.  You did what the LORD asked, and that's all that was required of you."

So, go out and boldly proclaim Jesus Christ to your friends and loved ones so that they may also know and live in the glorious presence of God with you for all eternity.

No comments: