Love and tolerance: the world often equates one with the other. Yet, passages like Galatians 6.1-2 and Ezekiel 33.1-6 make it clear that tolerance is not always love. We are told to lovingly confront sin in the lives of other believers, to share the gospel and, at times, warn unbelievers of the judgment to come.
Also read about God’s promises to Israel, the futility of running from God, and how a fool and his words get into trouble.
Hosea 7 & 8
2 John 1-13
Love and Tolerance, Not Always the Same!
This is Love
Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love God and the second greatest commandment is to love our neighbor as ourselves. Here in 2 John, the apostle makes it clear that the way we love God and others is by being obedient to His Word:
“This is love, that we walk according to His commandments” (v. 6).
Sometimes obeying God’s Word seems contrary to what the world considers loving behavior. The world often defines “love” as “tolerance.” Yet, passages like Galatians 6.1-2, Matthew 18.15 and Ezekiel 33.1-6 teach that we are to warn believers and unbelievers alike so they can repent and turn from their sin.
Of course, that doesn’t mean we go around pointing out every sin, but when we see a professing believer caught in a lifestyle or pattern of sin, we should be willing to lovingly confront them, when necessary, and perhaps come alongside them. With unbelievers, we need to prayerfully consider sharing the gospel with them and, at times, warning them of the judgment to come.
Faithful are the wounds of a friend,
But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful (Prov. 27.6).
Neither does it mean we should be harsh or self-righteous. In fact, this is a time to first examine ourselves and be sure we get the logs out of our own eyes (Matt. 7.3-5). When we do approach someone we are to be gentle and tentative, not tentative about the truths of God, but tentative about their behavior by not jumping to conclusions.
Perhaps you have a married female friend who has mentioned to you that she and a male co-worker have had lunch together a number of times or you’ve observed her playfully flirting with someone. You see all kinds of red flags, but it’s important not to jump to conclusions. Instead, you can lovingly warn her of the danger of spending time one-on-one with someone of the opposite sex or talk to her about the dangers of flirting. You might use an example from your own life where you thought something was harmless, but later realized it was a slippery slope.
Or maybe you have a co-worker who announces he or she is getting “married” to their same-sex partner and hands you an invitation. You know refusing to go will not be taken well, but you know you can’t support your friend’s choice.
You can graciously thank them for the invitation and then pray for an opportunity to talk to him or her one-on-one, preferably outside of work. Confirm your love and concern for both of them and ask if they have considered what God has to say about their decision. Let them know that while you care about them, you have to care more about what God thinks. Again, don’t be harsh or self-righteous.
And don’t become argumentative.
23 But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife.24 And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, 25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, 26 and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will (2 Tim. 2.23-26).
These kinds of conversations often don’t go well from a natural perspective, but if we do our part to speak the truth in love, we must trust God for the results. In the meantime, we can pray for them. Pray that God will use the seeds you’ve planted and send others into their paths to speak truth to them. We must, however, remind ourselves that the risk of offending someone here on earth should be weighed against the eternal consequences.
9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6.9-10).
One of the best books I’ve found on the subject of witnessing to unbelievers is Share Jesus Without Fear by William Fay and Linda Evans Shepherd. In it Mr. Fay shares his testimony:
My resume spelled p-o-w-e-r. I was the president and CEO of a multimillion-dollar international corporation, I had ties with the mob, and I owned one of the larger houses of prostitution in the United States. I was involved in racketeering, bookmaking, and gambling. I had a gold Rolex, chauffeured limo, money, my fourth wife, and trophies from my many racquetball championships. I felt I had everything the world said spelled success. And I mocked anyone who dared share his faith in God with me.
One morning, I went to my athletic club looking for someone to annihilate on the racquetball court. As I looked through the little window in the door, I saw a man on the court who appeared to be a Jew. Brazenly, I pushed open the door and demanded, “What are you doing here on Yom Kippur? Why aren’t you out doing whatever you Jews do on holidays?”
Paul Grant replied, “I am also a Christian. Yom Kippur is the day Jews ask God to forgive them of their sins for another year. I don’t have to do that because I’ve already received forgiveness through Jesus, the Messiah.”
“Oh, please, give me a break,” I sneered.
But instead of being offended, Dr. Grant patiently answered his questions over the next few months. He reached out to him with Christian concern even when his house of prostitution was raided, inviting him to church and visiting with him. Mr. Fay rejected the gospel at that time, but never forgot Dr. Grant’s wife’s testimony.
He goes on in the book:
“That’s fine for you, but I don’t need that junk in my life.”
Did They Fail?
Through the years, many people came into my life to share their faith, but I would not receive it. I sent these people away, discouraged, because I either insulted them, antagonized them, or persecuted them. And if they walked away from me believing they had failed, they believed a lie. For I never forgot the name, the face, the person, or the words of anyone who ever told me about Jesus.
God is sovereign! If he can take somebody like me and change him, he can take anybody in your life and change him as well. But be aware: you are not responsible for causing a person’s heart to turn toward God. Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44). It is God who draws people to himself, not you. But even so, you do not want to miss God-ordained opportunities to share your faith with others, or you also miss opportunities to experience the good things God had planned for you. Philemon, verse 6, says, “I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.”
You see, success is sharing your faith and living your life for Jesus Christ. It has nothing whatsoever to do with bringing anyone to the Lord. It has everything to do with obedience.
Even if you do not have the privilege to see someone respond the first time you share your faith, you have not failed, because you were obedient.
Along with a wealth of practical suggestions and encouragement, the book has questions and conversation starters that can help even the most reluctant Christian become more comfortable sharing his or her faith.
But we must be willing to overcome our fear of rejection, of not being liked, or of appearing unloving, in order to do the truly loving thing.
Today’s Other Readings:
Israel Has Forgotten his Maker
This little book of Hosea contains some of the strongest prophecies against His people, alongside the greatest picture of His redeeming love. Although He declared judgment for their rejection of Him, He also promised to “buy them back” off the auction block, just as He commanded Hosea to do for Gomer.
12 I have written for him the great things of My law,
But they were considered a strange thing.
13 For the sacrifices of My offerings they sacrifice flesh and eat it,
But the LORD does not accept them.
Now He will remember their iniquity and punish their sins.
They shall return to Egypt.
14 “ For Israel has forgotten his Maker, … (8.12-14).
Though Israel continued to perform their religious activities—“the sacrifices of My offerings,” God would not accept them. They were meaningless to Him because they were without faith and were mixed with idolatry. But, although they would return to captivity—“Egypt”—God said He would not leave them there forever. There would come a time when He would once again begin working in the Nation of Israel as a whole and many would return to Him in faith.
In the Church
Today many people attend church. They may even be involved in some area of ministry. But their religion has little, if any, effect on how they live their lives or treat others. They give God very little thought on a practical level. They may well be among those we talked about yesterday who hear “on that day … ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ ” (Matt. 7.23).
Attempting to Run from God
Verse 7, “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?”
When we are not living our lives in ways that are pleasing to God, we often try to avoid anything which will convict us of our sin. We find excuses to miss church, quit reading our Bibles, and avoid anyone who will question us or hold us accountable.
But as our Teaching Pastor, Larry Lamb, frequently reminds us, “You can run from God, but you’re not that fast!”
So even though we try to run from God, if we are truly His children, He never leaves us (Heb. 13.5) and there is nowhere we can go to flee from His presence. And though we may suffer the consequences of our sinful choices, nothing can separate us from His love (Rom. 8.38-39).
But if we can continue sinning without coming under a conviction that leads to repentance, we must examine ourselves to see if we do genuinely belong to Him.
“Do you see a man hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.”
Proverbs says even a fool, when he keeps quiet, is considered wise (Prov. 17.28), but when we just blurt out the first thing which comes to our mind, we often live to regret it.
Note: You can get Share Jesus Without Fear right now for the reduced price of $7.06.
Getting ready for 2017
The holidays are just around the corner and the new year will be on us before we know it. What will you do to make Bible reading an ongoing habit in the coming year? I’d like to encourage you to set a goal to read through the Bible.
And I hope you’ll sign up for my daily email. It can serve as a gentle reminder to stay on track. I try to make comments that are relevant to the daily struggles and questions that I hear in my counseling and discipleship ministries.
Start today so you can begin the habit and it will be a regular part of your day come January.
You can also follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, or Google+. Just click on the social media icons. But nothing replaces having the daily devotion pop up in your inbox each day. It, usually (once in a while life gets in the way), goes out at 3 a.m. MST, so it’s there for early risers no matter what time zone you’re in.
So will you join me and, possibly, encourage someone else to do the same. (Why not email or call them right now?) Let’s get ready and grow in our relationship with Him together.
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