A few weeks ago on my Facebook page I posted an excerpt from a sermon by John MacArthur in which he exposed the false doctrine that is being preached by well-known pastor Joel Osteen. I was disappointed and discouraged by the comments from several fellow Christians. In dissenting posts about MacArthur, the theme seemed to be that people thought he was being hateful and angry towards Osteen. One person used several Bible verses to defend her position that this is not how Christians like MacArthur should act. She said, “Don’t underestimate the importance of love. Love never fails [1 Corinthians 13:8].” This person also quoted a portion of John 13:35, which states, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
I agree wholeheartedly that Christians are to love others and that this is an important hallmark of our walk with Christ. However, what does it mean to love others? In many evangelical circles today the meaning of love seems closer to the world’s definition instead of God’s. Many unbelievers promote the idea that to love others means being tolerant and accepting of everybody’s ideas, actions, and thoughts including gay marriage, the right to abortion, and many others.
Many Christians have also adopted this mindset and get upset and angry, as this series of Facebook posts showed, when one Christian (like MacArthur) criticizes another professing Christian (like Osteen). One person even went as far to quote Philippians 1:18, which states, “What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice” to defend Osteen and infer that God can still use him to bring people to the truth. This verse speaks only to the motive of the person presenting the truth not the presenting of false doctrine or a false gospel. If an atheist gets up in front of an audience and reads the Bible then God can use that because even though the motive is wrong, the truth is still being heard. When a person does not preach biblical truth or the true gospel, like Joel Osteen, Philippians 1:18 does not apply.
Several verses earlier, in Philippians 1:9, Paul states, “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment” (emphasis mine). An aspect of our love for Christ is to be discernment, knowing right from wrong whether it concerns what unbelievers or believers teach. We can only be discerning if we know and study God’s Word.
For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12, emphasis mine)So what is love? “God is love” (1 John 4:8). But God’s love is not all candy and roses. Hebrews 12:6 states, “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” If we truly want to reflect God’s image when it comes to love, then we need to be discerning and help those professing Christ to know the truth of His Word.
Keep fighting the good fight of the faith!