August 18, 2010

Where Is the Love?

This revolutionary convenience that we should be using to shower the world with our magnificent message as the leaves of autumn is being used to destroy reputations and sully characters, especially when it comes to doctrinal orthodoxy and practice. Godly men and women, professors, preachers, and teachers are bludgeoned in blogs by careless criticism, unchecked facts, or alleged character flaws that have no basis in fact. Some statements parlayed in e-mails are downright lies, words deliberately taken out of context and spun to fit the acerbic thoughts of the sender, often under the guise of Christian concern. And this, even before the accused is contacted according to Jesus’ prescription for dealing with differences described in Matthew 18.
2010 1528 page23This insidious work of the devil is weaving its way into the veins of the body of Christ, weakening its heart and pulse, and causing those who would join us to recoil from the vile stench of the loveless language of a few.
More than a year ago I was a guest speaker at a convention for another denomination, at which a bishop and his wife told me of their desire to join our church. However, they withdrew their plans after reading some material posted on the Internet by Adventists, about Adventists. He observed, “Did you know that your people publish some of the worst things about each other on Web sites? I could not, in good conscience, join a church where there’s so much hate expressed by its members, no matter how biblically pure its doctrines.” Ouch!
I suggest we call a moratorium on these negative missives and restore the love that once defined our people as different from the world. Let’s get back to basics and observe Jesus’ command: “Love each other as I have loved you” (John 15:12). To Jesus, love is the greatest principle; and it is almost always linked with the keeping of commandments (see John 15:10 and Rom. 13:10). We cannot pick and choose by keeping the commands we approve of and neglect others because we find them too hard to observe. I believe, as Ellen White wrote, “All [God’s] biddings are enablings” (Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 333).
This means God has put into the heart, soul, mind, and body of every believer the ability to obey His commands. And if we really, truly understood love in the Christian sense, we would need no other guide for Christian living.
This love is not just sentimentality or gushing emotional indulgence so often portrayed and perpetuated in the public media. True love is what was demonstrated at the cross when Christ laid down His perfect, sinless life for sinners. When Jesus said, “Love each other as I have loved you,” He didn’t mean the kind of love that flows naturally for supremely attractive persons or things, or for those bound to us by family ties or friendship, as wonderful as they are in a well-rounded life. But Jesus commanded us to love sinners, our enemies, whom God loves because it is His nature to do so (John 3:16).
Christ’s command to love one another was spoken on the eve of His sacrifice on Calvary. It was more than rhetoric when He said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). He was about to do just that for sinners throughout the ages. His love is the standard.
So join me in calling for the end of the use of the Internet as an instrument of the devil against our blood-bought brothers and sisters in Christ. 
Hyveth Williams is professor of Homiletics at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary in Berrien Springs, Michigan. This article was published August 19, 2010.