Over the past few weeks, like many pastors, I have been following the news coming from Mark’s Driscoll’s church Mars Hill. Naturally the reactions and responses to online articles and blog posts run the spectrum. On one side are Driscoll supporters who stand by his actions and on the other side are individuals who vilify the man and his team.
For a good perspective on the most recent news regarding the firing of a pastor from Driscoll’s church, I commend this blog post:
What strikes me about all of this is the major differences and gaps in how people, especially pastoral types, use the word love.
As Tony’s post referred to, pastors have excommunicated their own children and disowned former members and elders “out of love”. In their minds, it is precisely out of love for these wayward sinners, that harsh actions are required. For them, failure to punish or convict is a sign of weakness and, in essence, not having love for someone.
Of course, others (pastors and non-clergy) alike seem to use this same philosophy in protesting abortion clinics and LGBT parades. Their “love” leads toward the abasement of people with fear, in hopes of repentance so these sinners will avoid the fiery torture of hell. We have all heard sad stories of violent acts and words supposedly done in the name of God and out of love.
Now, truth be told, in my experience many of these people have no love at all. They may use that language, but it is pure hatred that comes forth in every form. But I think they are the extreme and do not represent the majority.
The majority of pastors that use “tough love”, as many refer to it, I think in general do love those they are dealing with. It may not look, sound, or feel like love to others, but only God knows their motivation.
It is their particular theological slant and biblical interpretations that they must come to terms with. For them, loving others and its implications and applications, must come through the lens of biblical interpretation. Of course, they too realize (to a point) the cultural and contextual boundaries and probably do not follow the letter of the law strictly and literally i.e. stoning to death a homosexual or woman who is having an affair). Verbal stoning and excommunication seem to do the trick today!
And so, we have examples that are now widely circulated and gossiped about. Sadly these pastors and churches are lamented for being judgemental, arrogant, close-minded, narrow, and well…just plain mean. I doubt (or at least hope) that is not their intention.
As always, there are two sides to everything and so another group of pastors out of “love” will open their hearts and doors to all people, specifically to the ones other churches will not. They welcome people and view them not as “sinners” but as fellow humans created in God’s image. The love of Christ compels them to openly affirm their individuality and uniqueness with a message of acceptance.
For them the love of Christ knows no limits or boundaries and is unconditional, as a good father’s love towards his children would be. Rather than being gossiped about for excommunication, they are lamented for being too tolerant or inclusive. These pastors and churches not only allow people, marginalized by society, into their doors, but support them in leadership. They will interpret the Bible through a lens of love and grace and then make decisions accordingly. Their theological views compel them to love lavishly, and for that often they are criticized (and also then called “sinners” by others)
Both sets of pastors and churches I am sure claim they love people.
The question and difference are how that love is displayed and received by others.
There appears to be quite a contrast.
Where do you stand? Is there a clearly right or clearly wrong path?
“By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Jesus was right. This is still his dream. How we interpret and act on this command makes all the difference.
Is there a better Love moving forward for pastors and churches and youth ministries alike?
The solution may lie in the middle ground somewhere, but I will reveal my cards on the table and say this:
If excused of anything on that day of judgement (whatever one may believe about that) I would rather God tell me that I loved too much; extended too much grace; was too lavish with acceptance than to be condemned for being too harsh, too critical, too condemning, too exclusive, and too judgmental.