Why We Can’t Invoke “Love” to Cover Our Tracks

October 30, 2013

I love my wife.

But sometimes, I don’t tell her enough.  Or I don’t communicate it in a way that she can receive it.

That’s not her fault.  It’s my fault for presuming that she should just feel loved because she’s married to me.

In the last couple of weeks, a couple of news stories have caught my attention.  One is national news (at least in Christian circles), jmac1002the Strange Fire conference, led by John MacArthur.  The other was local news in my town.  A couple of restaurant patrons, in lieu of a tip, wrote a “loving” message to their server, whom they assumed was homosexual.  (You can see where this is going already.  Be warned, there are slurs quoted below.)

And although both events seem as if they have nothing in common, they have a common thread.  The perpetrators invoked “love” as their motivation.

It seems that “love” really does cover a multitude of sins, at least if you tell everyone that’s your motivation.  But these two examples prove, once again, how good Christians can be at using the word “love” in vain, and both can teach us something about what it means to truly love others.

Strange Fire, Strange Love Language

Let’s start with MacArthur’s Strange Fire conference because more of us are probably familiar with the event.  If you don’t know, John MacArthur spent an entire weekend “proving” the Charismatic movement is a cult, made up of non-Christians.  And of course, he had reams of Bible verses to prove his points.

Longtime readers will know that I have never spoken in tongues, healed anyone or prophesied in the charismatic sense of the word.  I am a proud member of the “frozen chosen.”  Yet, spending an entire weekend conference on saying that 500 million people are going to hell sounds like an incredibly silly, petty, ridiculous waste of time.

Now, MacArthur responded to the criticism that it all sounded “hateful” and “divisive” by playing this old card:

“The most loving thing you can do for someone is tell them the truth.”  

Of course, he also said that his book (which the whole conference was intended to promote) is “for the church” and since Charismatics are not part of the church, it would not benefit them.  They presumably would not be able to understand his superior Bible exegesis because they have been brainwashed.  So is he telling Charismatics the truth or not?

That question is moot.  It simply means that MacArthur gets to have it both ways.  He gets to say that Charismatics will not benefit from his book because they are brainwashed.  But he gets to cover his tracks by saying this is all done in “love” because he’s telling Charismatics the truth.

In this case, the medium really is the message.

Here’s A Tip For You

Last week, it was reported in my town that two restaurant patrons chose not to leave a tip for the young man who served them dinner.  Instead, they left a note, partially quoted here:

“Thank you for your service; it was excellent.  However, we cannot in good conscience tip you because your homosexual lifestyle is an affront to God.  Faggots will not share God’s wealth and you will not share in ours.  It is never too late for God’s love, but people will not be spared for their fag choices…”

Again, it amazes me how the “Christian” perpetrators cover their tracks by casually invoking “love” in their message.  Apparently, you can call someone a faggot, threaten them with burning in hell, steal money from them (since the server has to divide tips and sales with other restaurant staff), but invoke God’s love to cover your tracks.

There are so many things wrong with this scenario.  How did they know their server was gay anyway?  Did he tell them his name, the specials, and his sexual history?  In what universe is this acceptable?

Again, the medium is the message.  Writing “love” on the back of a receipt between gay slurs is not “love.”

Why Don’t You Know I Love You?

I know that “The Five Love Languages” are not a scientific psychological tool.  But they are pretty accurate and easy to remember.

Funny thing, I don’t think anyone’s love language is weekend-long conference where you are called a brainwashed heretic.

I also don’t remember being left a slur-ridden, insulting note instead of money being on the list.

Let this be a reminder to all of us, because these are extreme examples.  I am among the worst at thinking that how I show love should be interpreted correctly by the people around me.  It’s actually my responsibility to ensure that my communication of love is clear and received by people.  I can’t just call it “love” and cover my tracks after doing whatever I desire.  Love is not lazy, friends.

What do you think? About Strange Fire, about the “tip” at the restaurant, about our where our responsibility begins and ends to let people know we love them?

9 responses to Why We Can’t Invoke “Love” to Cover Our Tracks

  1. I get it. First off, the note on the tip was appalling. I don’t really get how people who claim to have read the Bible can say things like that to other people. Really, if you want to help someone out of love, you’d use loving language. Not the terms used in the “love note”.

    Secondly, I like Johnny Mac. I agree with about 87% of what he says. However, I don’t agree with his charismatic stuff. The charismatics are actually living out the Gospel where other Christians are not. I got to know Christ because a charismatic shared the Gospel with me. Am I charismatic? Not really, no. Do I believe people can still speak in tongues and prophesy? Well, who am I to put God in a box? So, yeah, if the Lord wants it, guess what? That’s how it’ll be.

    This is just my loose change, take it for what it is.

    Thanks for the insight.

    Josh recently posted..A License to Sin: A quick look at Jude’s Epistle

  2. Right on. I don’t have much to add, other than the fact that while I can’t play John MacArthur’s game and question his salvation, I do hope there will be a time out room for him and others who refused to play well with others while on earth. Because I can’t imagine how finding “those people” in heaven wouldn’t be hell for them. And did the judgy tippers mention love other than God’s, which in their universe needs to be earned? Because that’s their problem right there.

  3. I agree, it is such a weak defense at least used in these scenarios. Are there times where the loving thing is to tell the truth? I do think so, but I believe that they are within the context of relationship and in a loving manner. Not just I get to slap you around a bit because I love you.

    I mean John MacArthur stands up and pronounces some pretty severe judgment on millions and millions of people that he’s never met and expects them to take him seriously? I’m all for warning against dangers of a particular view, but to cast judgment on something that the Bible doesn’t really present a solid case against isn’t all that loving.

    The lack of leaving tip note is just as bad if not worse. This is someone they at least had some direct contact with and they left a terrible note that can’t just be validated by the use of the word love. Even if they think that homosexuality is sinful, there are a plethora of better ways to show love than this. Actually leaving a tip instead of a note would have been a start. Just my thoughts anyway.
    Jeremy M. recently posted..Wanderings of the Week 10/27/13

  4. All I can do is just shake my head. When will believers stop judging each other on non-essentials? I have appreciated J.M. in the past and respect his Biblical knowledge and insight but I see a thread of arrogance causing him to tread on a slippery slope. The note to the server is horrific. Why do we try to force redeemed behavior upon unredeemed people? Relationship, both spiritually in Christ and person to person, is foundational for any truly loving conversation about sin.
    Barbara Dillard recently posted..Together

  5. Makes me wonder who the ones are that are really brainwashed.
    Kate Hall recently posted..Top 10 Funniest Tweets – October 2013

  6. This sermon (which is biblical), would drive the John MacArthur’s of the world berserk:


    I’m willing to be that you’ve never heard anything like it before. I hadn’t.
    theoldadam recently posted..This sermon epitomizes the work that came out of the Reformation…

  7. Didn’t Paul say some pretty harsh things about people who create controversies over disputable matters? The kids and I are in the middle of reading his books to Timothy and that seems to be Paul’s main beef. In the early 90’s, I would sometimes listen to a program on Christian radio called “The Bible Answer Man”. After a few months, I realized that the host, Hank Hanagraff, was spending most of the time calling any church that didn’t follow his theology a “cult.” He totally lost credibility in my opinion and I stopped listening to him. Can we agree that maybe anything other than what is in the Apostle’s Creed or Nicene Creed is a disputable matter?

    I am really glad that you put the word “Christian” in parentheses when telling the tip story. For all we know, they could be part of the Westboro Baptist Church or some other wolf in sheep’s clothing. I am pretty sure that stiffing a waiter because of his apparent lifestyle choice goes against Jesus’ parable about giving someone your shirt when they ask you for a cloak. And I think the bit in the Bible about telling the truth in love might be more applicable to people you know and love rather than a random stranger you met at a restaurant or at a convention.

    What God has been drilling into my poor, dense brain over the last few years, partly through you and partly through homeschooling my kids and partly through other people is that our #1 job as human beings is to love God wholeheartedly and our #2 job is to love others as ourselves. This is what I am trying to teach my kids, because, honestly, if my kids graduate from my school being incredibly intelligent and find a cure for cancer or negotiate an Arab-Isreali peace agreement, but are arrogant, cold-hearted people, I will consider myself a failure as their teacher.
    tandemingtroll recently posted..A Brief Introduction

  8. Matt, I will read your blog as long as blogs exist because I need this reminder to check my heart and cook my noodle.

    In what seems like an age of contention and debate rather than compassion and love this is a great smack upside the head.

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