The Law of Love Part II: Showing Love in a Secular Society
In my previous post, we looked at how Christians should respond to other believers who differ in matters of conscience (e.g. wearing face masks, getting vaccines, etc.). We saw that we don’t use our freedom in these matters as an opportunity for division or pride, but rather to serve one another in love (Galatians 5:13). We demonstrate love to one another by putting other’s interests above our own (Philippians 2:3-4). And so the law of love trumps division over differences of opinion on these issues.
But how do we as believers respond to the world which differs from us (and not just in matters of conscience)? How do we glorify God in our response to a world that is often hostile to the church?
The answer is the same: love. Christians are called to love their fellow believers (John 13:34-35; 1 John 4:11) and also to love their neighbor (Matthew 22:39). Just as love is central to a believer’s response to fellow believers who differ in opinion, so to love is central to the Christian’s response to non-believers.
What does this look like? We will look at three exhortations for you as you walk in love in this secular society.
1. Church, Love Your Neighbor
Among Jesus’s many teachings, He explains the characteristics of His true followers. One particular quality of His disciples is the demonstration of radical love. Jesus says, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:27-28). This seems impossible to live out. Yet it is clear: If you are part of Jesus’s kingdom, then love, do good to, bless, and pray for your enemies.
Do we exemplify this love? Do we show this love to non-believers who vehemently disagree with us?
The parable of the Good Samaritan also emphasizes our love for our neighbor (Luke 10:25-37). There Jesus teaches that loving your neighbor is caring for them even though it costs you. Loving your neighbor is not side-stepping their circumstances, but rather caring for them in their calamity.
So church, love your neighbor. Demonstrate love—not disdain—toward your non-believing coworkers who differ from you politically, theologically, and in matters of conscience. Fervently pray for them. And graciously be there for them in their times of need.
As a follower of Christ, walk in love (Ephesians 5:1-2).
2. Church, Be in the World but Not of the World
Mere hours before His crucifixion, Jesus prayed for His current and future disciples and their tension of being in the world but not of the world (John 17:11-19). We are in the world in the sense that it is our current place of residence. But Jesus’s followers are not of the world in that they are not to live as the world does. Live in the world but exemplify the values of His kingdom.
Or, put in a different way, we are ambassadors for His Kingdom while we are here on earth (2 Corinthians 5:17-21). Our true citizenship is in heaven not in the world (Philippians 3:20). We have a different King who calls us to live out His kingdom values while living as sojourners in a foreign land (1 Peter 2:11-17).
The United States has ambassadors in nearly two hundred foreign countries. U.S ambassadors are expected to represent the values of their homeland and to follow its laws—because after all, the U.S embassy is technically American soil. Yet ambassadors are also expected to maintain good relations with the foreign country, care for them, and, when appropriate, even look out for their best interests.
The same can be said of us as ambassadors of Christ. Our lives and homes and families and workplaces become little embassies of Christ’s kingdom. We are called to live out the values of the kingdom of God for that is our true homeland and to whom we are accountable. Yet while we live as ambassadors, we establish good relationships with outsiders—caring for and loving those who are in and of this world.
Are you living as an ambassador to your family, friends, and coworkers? Does your conduct towards them show the values of your true homeland?
Church, live in but not of this world. Live as ambassadors of Christ.
3. Church, Don’t Be Like the World When Responding to the World
Given our current sociopolitical climate, a special exhortation about our speech towards outsiders is necessary. Paul writes, “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Colossians 4:5-6).
This does not mean that we are timid in discussing controversial topics. There is no message more controversial than the gospel, and we are to be unashamed to proclaim it (Romans 1:16). But it does mean that our speech towards non-believers is full of grace and love. We find the delicate balance of speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15, 25).
Now let’s be honest: The difficult part is that the world doesn’t play by these rules. Some, though not all, respond with condescending, hostile, insensitive speech. But should this be any surprise to Jesus’s disciples (see John 15:18-19)? What were we like prior to becoming believers? Non-believers are of the world and are not part of Christ’s kingdom nor do they adhere to His values. They act in accordance to the values of this world.
The real tragedy is when we as ambassadors of Christ respond as though we too were of the world—when we respond to outsiders not with grace, but according to the ways of the world. Words have tremendous power. Words can encourage and build up. They can show love and compassion, forgiveness and grace. Yet words may also become weapons. With them we can tear people down, demolish relationships, and destroy our witness for the gospel.
Though clearly applicable to conversations with non-believers in person or on the phone, our speech on social media is most needing of this reminder. Social media is where many of us Christians are tempted to respond to the world like the world. After all, they’re being harsh and blunt, why shouldn’t we? But remember, we are called to love; we are ambassadors of Christ.
So before you post, repost, or respond on social media, perhaps ask yourselves the following questions:
- Does this post glorify and honor God?
- Does this post demonstrate love to my non-believing neighbor?
- Does this post enhance my gospel witness?
- Does this post represent the values of the kingdom of God?
If the answer to all of these questions is “yes,” then feel free to post it. If any of the answers is “no,” then restrain yourself for the sake of the glory of Christ.
Brothers and sisters, let’s demonstrate the love of God through gracious speech to outsiders. You might be the only witness to the kingdom of God that they have. Don’t tarnish it by responding according to the ways of the world.
Be Markedly Different From the World
As ambassadors of Christ we are called to be markedly different from the world. The world loves its own and hates those who are not of the world (John 15:18-19). Yet believers are to be different, showing love to those that hate them (Matthew 5:43-47). We are not called to only love people who look like us, think like us, and vote like us. We are called to love—really love, in our hearts and with our thoughts, actions, and words—our neighbor who differs from us in order to show God’s love.
This is the way of Christ, the way of love. So may we live out His kingdom values while also loving our neighbors.
More in Pastors Blog
June 18, 2020The Law of Love Part II: Showing Love in a Secular Society
June 11, 2020The Law of Love Part I: Unity in Diversity in the Church
June 4, 2020The Weight of Glory