Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. (Matthew 7:13-14)
Let us, therefore, strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience [emphasis mine] (Heb. 4:11).
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. (2 Corinthians 4:8-11)
Long term, truly serving God is the most rewarding thing you can do, but it often isn’t easy, and it isn’t supposed to be. Scott Duck Ministries
During my Sunday School class this past Sunday [June 4, 2023], a classmate lamented how he found it difficult to love the sitting President of the United States. There was a mixture of affirming nods, murmurs, and some nervous laughter as many people believe God’s house is off-limits to political partisanship discussions.
As a quick aside, I think that is naivety on steroids and should never be an absolute stance of any Bible-believing Church. Especially considering the current posture of our two major political parties in America. One, the Democrats, takes stances that are explicitly anti-God and anti-Bible, while the Republicans, who are not perfect in their Biblical adherence, usually come down on the right side of most moral/social issues confronting the country today but let me not venture too long down that path today.
I quickly draw back to the purpose of today’s blog. I believe our class squandered a valuable teaching moment by not addressing the topic head-on. One thing that separates adequate teachers from transformational teachers is that transformational teachers do not feel tethered to their lesson plans and can quickly pivot when one of those excellent teaching moments arises. Seasoned parents have learned to capitalize when teaching moments occur, especially as our children engage in their teenage years. Those teaching moments are fleeting, so wise parents learn it is prudent to seize the moment when they present themselves.
Whether people actually believe me or not, I really feel reticent to interject myself into every conversation unnecessarily, as if no conversation is meaningful unless I am part of it. Additionally, our class was combined with another class, so one learns through experience to tread softly in such situations. Thus, I failed to speak when maybe I should have.
As serious Sunday School attendees are wont to do, I reflected on what I would have done differently to hone my craft. As the week progressed, I thought more deeply about the proposed dilemma, and the more I pondered I trust the Holy Spirit was at work in my thinking. I came to realize the dilemma is not in the Evangelical’s ability to love difficult people. The real dilemma is our understanding of love’s proper application.
C.H. Spurgeon, answering any inquiry of how one should defend the Word of God, responded with these prescient words,
There seems to me to have been twice as much done in some ages in defending the Bible as in expounding it, but if the whole of our strength shall henceforth go to the exposition and spreading of it, we may leave it pretty much to defend itself. I do not know whether you see that lion—it is very distinctly before my eyes; a number of persons advance to attack him, while a host of us would defend the grand old monarch, the British Lion, with all our strength. Many suggestions are made and much advice is offered. This weapon is recommended, and the other. Pardon me if I offer a quiet suggestion. Open the door and let the lion out; he will take care of himself. Why, they are gone! He no sooner goes forth in his strength than his assailants flee. The way to meet infidelity is to spread the Bible. The answer to every objection against the Bible is the Bible [emphasis mine].
You see, the Evangelical Church has so watered down the biblical concept of love that we only imagine love expressing itself in distinctively positive ways. Sorry, the Bible presents no such myopic view of love. Biblical Love is no mere weak, sappy, sentimental state of affairs. Love can also be a strong and passionate rebuke, a sweet but firm dissent. Love can just as easily be expressed in a manner some have coined as tough love.
I remember Susan Hunt speaking at one of the late Dr. R.C. Sproul Ligonier’s annual conferences. She spoke eloquently about how God used her husband to shape her into a more mature Christlikeness. Guess how her wise and loving husband did it? He loved her by gently but consistently telling her ‘No.” Now, Sister Hunt did not go into specific details about what the ‘No’ was pertaining, but I still remember being floored as a senior female saint courageously shared at such a public venue like a Ligonier Conference how she grew in her Christlikeness by being told “No” by her husband.
Now, let’s narrow our focus on the alleged quandary of loving President Biden dilemma. First, every professing Evangelical has a real-life Joseph Biden type in their sphere of influence. The typical reader of this blog does not swim in the same waters as Joe Biden, so I want this to be a practical discussion and not merely abstract.
God does not expect us to be best buds with our Joe Biden. Evangelicals need not fret if we find our Joe’s actions deplorable and seek to avoid any unnecessary interaction with our Joe. But what biblical love will compel us to do for our Joe is meet his needs if it is in our power to do so. We will always seek to treat our Joe with full human dignity simply because God created our Joe in God’s own image, just like the rest of us.
If our Joe ever becomes the victim of real discrimination, we endeavor to be his most ardent supporters. If our Joe becomes sick and there is a list of people taking meals, we sign up eagerly. If our Joe needs help around the house, and we both have the time and the ability, we offer our services without charge or recompense.
When things transpire positively for our Joe, and to the best of our knowledge, Joe has prospered fairly; we seek to be the first to congratulate and wish our Joe continued success. Conversely, when things do not fall our Joe’s way, we refuse to gloat and delight in his failure. We do so because our minds are held captive to the Word of God. We remember and actively seek to implement one of my other favorite Bible passages,
Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Romans 12:15
You see, as an Evangelical, when we step back, we realize it is not really so hard to love President Joseph Biden. Actually, since we don’t know the POTUS personally, we can concede he has never done us any direct, personal harm. I grant displaying genuine biblical love toward someone who has hurt us deeply in a very personal and intimate manner is indeed very hard. I never want to make light of that type of pain and anguish, so that is a whole other topic for another day.
Yet, when most Evangelicals speak of their difficulty loving people they never interact with personally; they are not dwelling on deep personal anguish. Instead, they are talking about someone who takes a position they may feel in strong opposition. I trust that is what my classmate meant when he spoke of his difficulty loving President Biden.
Evangelicals can love President Biden by always treating him with respect, both as a person created in the Imago Dei and as the President of the United States of America. Sadly many professing Evangelicals took to referring to President Trump as 45 so they did not have to utter his name. I can almost guarantee you those individuals never prayed for President Trump despite the clear and explicit command in their bibles:
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 1 Timothy 1:1-2
Evangelicals can love President Biden by crediting him when he performs an act that is genuinely and biblically praiseworthy, if and when that happens.
Evangelicals can love President Biden by praying that God removes the scales from his eyes as we understand the President enacting laws we understand stand in clear rebellion to the Word of God.
Finally, Evangelicals can love President Biden by respectfully registering our dissent when he takes positions we understand that are contrary to God’s Word and His expressed manner to facilitate human flourishing.
Love is not always warm puppies and lofty platitudes. Sometimes love is expressed with open and frank rebuke. If we see someone traveling on the road the Bible teaches leads to eternal destruction, the most loving thing an Evangelical can do is tell them they are wrong with clear and direct confrontation. All the while freely acknowledging that we are as guilty as them. Maybe not be committing the same act but guilty nonetheless of what R.C. Sproul called Cosmic Treason.
If you are not traversing on the narrow road with God's full authority, I implore you to be reconciled to Jesus Christ of Nazareth today. Jesus Christ is the only hope in this world and the world beyond. He came as the Second Adam and accomplished all the First Adam failed miserably to perform as humanity’s Federal Head.
I have ceased posting from https://wordpress.com/home/keepingyourhandtotheplow.blog.
My new blog post is https://www.thinkingcriticallyfromanevangelicalworldview.com/blog
As always, let me know what you think. Until then, keep your hands to the plow and seek to serve for an Audience of One.
With fear and trembling,
Ricky Kyles DEd.Min