14 January 2010

"And the second is" — not in competition with it, but rather... (Part Three)

by Dan Phillips

Thus far: we've established that our Lord singled out immeasurable love for God, and measured love for our neighbor, as the two most important commands — in that order. And we noted that the two loves are distinguishable, yet not detachable. The first leads to and controls the second; and the implementation of the second demands discernment and wisdom, often in copious measures.

Today: the only point I mean to belabor today is that we very seldom seem to get the balance right, individually or corporately.

The great sin of our day, of course, is elevation of our notions of the second, at the expense of the first. Countless dainty souls live in verbose fear that anyone might offend a false teacher, a heretic, a compromiser; a Judas, a Balaam, a bar-Jesus, a Demas, a Simon Magus; a Judaizer, a Colossian errorist, a Nicolaitan. Their greatest fear seems to be that some straying head should go un-patted, some compromise of the Word remain unflattered.


One easily pictures Paul, or Peter, or Jesus Himself scarcely able to finish the opening words of a thundering denunciation without some precious, self-appointed Tone Cop plucking anxiously at his (or His) sleeve, cautioning him (or Him) about tone, warning him (or Him) above all not to be a "jerk."

And so the commands to love are twisted into commands to protect the false pride of, to shelter the apostasy of, to gild the faithlessness of, our Scripture-twisting, God-defying neighbor — or to enable the straying and harmful dithering of our erring brother.

Dare to agree with Jesus that love for God rules above all, and silk hankies are twisted in bleating expressions of anxiety that anyone take this as a license to be — The Great And Cuddly Allfeelgood forbid! — rude to deliberate perverters of Gospel preaching or living. We mustn't rob unbelief and dithering over eternal matters of its dignity.

I honestly don't think that the great danger of our age is loving God too much. Really. Just not seeing that particular epidemic.

I don't even think our gravest failing is using love for God as an excuse for harsh behavior. I suspect that most who are quickest to pour a glass of that particular whine have more than a touch of cosmophiliitis — a disease against which Dr. John warns most gravely (1 John 2:15-17). No, nowadays, it's hard enough even to get evangelicals serious about defining and defending the edges of the Evangel, which must certainly be a core manifestation of love for God.

Man has effectively dethroned God — and when I say "man," I mean evangelical man, all too often. Not in theory, to be sure (hel-lo? — "evangelical"), but in practice. The de facto has trumped the de jure. Man and his feelings, his (God-challenging) questions, his doubts; worse, his right to his (God-challenging) questions and doubts...worse than worse, his right to yammer on and on about his precious and inalienable right to his doubts, at the expense of actually getting on with learning, believing, embracing, living and openly affirming what God has in fact said in His Word.

Yet still, even among those who really do try to agree with God as to His own express moral/spiritual hierarchy, the balance so often proves elusive. Why is that?


It seems to be a general rule that private individuals, or public figures (pastors, writers, speakers, debaters) who stand foursquare for the truth often are personally cool, restrained, distant — at best. They (we?) can come off as rude or indifferent; and I'm not just talking about the dodge that the convicted invariably shelter behind, I mean really. Talk about personal matters, confess personal failings, have needs, and their eyes glaze over. The skill of personal connection just isn't theirs.

In some, it's actual lovelessness. I can think of several examples of doctrinal and intellectual sharpness (good) coupled with personal sharpness (bad), of skill as to facts and concepts unhappily married to indifference as to persons. One fellow I knew pastored a church while he was in seminary. When I heard him speak of the sheep in his care, it was invariably with seething, sneering contempt. I felt so sorry for them. (He went on to have a very nice academic career. And he pastors.) But he's far from the only smart and graceless man I can think of.

It seems rare, doesn't it, that a man be known both for doctrinal depth and acuity — which is a necessary facet of loving Godand for personal warmth, compassion, graciousness, kindness, love. (Once again: I'm not talking about the lazy dodge that ditherers invariably invoke when their ox is gored, but actual failure to pursue 1 Peter 3:8 and 4:8 as diligently as they pursue 2 Timothy 4:2.

Equally I can think of individuals I've known who were wonderfully warm and caring, very friendly and "easy" in a good way — yet who were doctrinally lax, or significantly off. It's not for nothing that the charismatic movement has that reputation. Ditto some flirting with emergent error, or others who are wobbly on matters I think important.

What can be said of individuals applies also to churches. Few will argue with this observation: it seems as if a church is either known for its doctrinal, Biblical depth and accuracy, or for its practical expression of love, compassion, care, friendliness, and hospitality. A church that combines both graces is rarer than snow in the Sahara.

Here's a warm and friendly and loving church... and its pulpit features "lite" preaching, sermonettes for Christianettes, or stories, or the latest fads in entertainment and world-pleasing.

But not this other church. No, its pulpit features solid, passionate, in-depth expository preaching that is Biblically orthodox through and through. Yet the pastor is aloof, withdrawn, self-involved, and the people reflect a similar introversion. He can preach about people like a wonder. He just can't deal with them, can't show care and compassion for them — can't display love for them, in person. Only in theory.

As I say, I've seen it on both sides of the pulpit. Decades ago, a fellow began attending a church I pastored. A disciple of Col. Thieme, he came for "Bible doctrine," because I preached expositorily from the Greek and Hebrew text. He didn't stay very long, though. Why did he leave? Because I kept "talking about ooey-gooey love." (And that's just because I talked about it; it wasn't even that I actually did it very well.)

These things ought not to be. Yet they are. Why?

Oh dear, you're looking at me as if I can answer that question. I can't. Except to say, "Because we are screwups, every one of us, even on our best day." Except to say, "That's why we need a Savior." Except to say, "Only Christ perfectly embodied both."

So we really, really need to learn of Him, and from Him.

Let's give that a try in the next post, which should (should) be the last in this series.

Update: this way to the conclusion.

Dan Phillips's signature

43 comments:

G N Barkman said...

Good post. Thanks, Dan.

SandMan said...

Thank you for this. Challenging. By God's grace, I want to be good at both.

Made me think of I Cor. 8:1b:

"Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up."

Nauvoo Pastor said...

Great stuff, Dan. To bad I did not write it myself. I have been saying it for years, but just can't seem to get it down in writing. Thanks for the post.

Coram Deo said...

Great analysis, Dan.

Of course the simple answer to your rhetorical query at the end - which I thought you answered quite nicely - is that the church is comprised of redeemed sinners.

We're not "there" yet, but praise God, by His grace we're on the way!

In Him,
CD

DJP said...

I think you're right, CD, but it's not a very satisfying answer, is it?

I mean, it's like our whole thing is that we're a school devoted to the art of cooking burgers and fries. And we do a really great job — except we don't make very good burgers.

Or fries.

But if our fries are half-decent, the burgers are terrible. And if the burgers are half-decent, the fries'll kill you.

Rick Potter said...

I have enjoyed this series very much. It has been very beneficial in my ongoing study. Starting out in my personal study, I had some wrong concepts. Those have been corrected as I have been guided to this series and some things that Dr. MacArthur wrote on "Imparted Righteousness" and the breastplate of righteousness. Thanks Dan. Your comment on introversion helped also. I have recently been pointed to Prov. 18:1 but am not sure it means what my antagonist wants it to mean. Looking forward to your last.

Mark B. Hanson said...

Granted that the dynamic you write about occurs often enough, it is my experience that even a very personable, caring person can be perceived as aloof when they say hard (scriptural) things.

Often it's a projection of the congregation on the pastor: "He must not have trouble with these sins he's telling us about." They then begin to consider that pastor as unapproachable because "of course" he wouldn't understand that they are having trouble with sin...

DJP said...

Right, Mark. Good point.

I think the article I link to with the words "the dodge that the convicted invariably shelter behind" makes that point.

Sir Aaron said...

I confess that I am doctrinally sharp (good) and personally sharp (bad). I've never been a very caring person or sympathetic to people's feelings. It's something I've noticed previous to this series and something I've been committed to working on.

stratagem said...

I think that is a really interesting point you've made about the connection between (some) doctrinally solid expositors, and the tendency to be aloof or appear uninterested in people.

Or, as I told my wife the other day during a similar discussion, "some people are pastors, other people are only preachers." To me a pastor is both loving and doctrinally sound, a rare and God-inspired combination, whereas just about anyone can be a "preacher" if they study for it.

Excellent and thought-provoking article.

Rachael Starke said...

Building off what Stratagem said, I've known of preachers who saw so-called "pastoral" work - counselling, visiting the sick, spending time with the lost - as very much second-tier work that really was the responsibility of the other elders and the congregation. His ministry was preaching; theirs was shepherding. And this attitude seeped into his preaching; he didn't preach to their sins and sorrows because he doesn't know what they were.

And surely another related aspect is how well the pastor is acquainted with the sinfulness of his own heart, and how he views that sinfulness. If the key to loving much is being forgiven much, then surely the key to understanding how much we've been forgiven is in being willing to have the Holy Spirit shine that painfully blazing spotlight into recesses of our heart we don't even know exist.

I hear some preachers talk about sin in theory, but rarely do I get the impression that they know personally, painfully what it's about. And if that seems theoretical, so will their delight in the glory of the gospel of forgiveness and grace, which then drives us to love as we've been loved.

This has been such a great series Dan. My husband and I talk sometimes about whether it might be valuable for seminaries/churches to require their graduates to participate in ongoing certification, much like medical workers have to. This series is like ongoing certification work for doctors of the soul (and the patients who love and appreciate them). Great stuff.

Eric said...

I have known and do know many a pastor, lay person and church who is both doctrinally sound and prone to love and kindness. Though I don't necessarily debate Dan's premise that one strength in one area may be coupled with a weakness in the other area, I do take some issue with extent that Dan seems to think this is prevalent. Perhaps this is a product of the circles that I have generally been exposed to as opposed to those to which Dan is privy, but I certainly can't say with Dan that "A church that combines both graces is rarer than snow in the Sahara", even as a hyperbolic statement of relative truth.

DJP said...

Eric, I hope you're right; but if so, you're the first to argue that position in my hearing in the last 37 years. But I don't pretend to have taken a scientific survey.

Honestly, I'm glad if your experience is otherwise, and pray for the day when the imbalance is the exception father than (anything approaching) the rule.

NewManNoggs said...

As always, excellent topic and development, Dan.

Mark's point harmonized with me, but I had a slightly different take on it. I think sometimes a preacher's persona in the pulpit can be so different from who they are out of the pulpit - not in relation to their walk, but in their personalities. I can think of two amazing pastors at my church, who are powerhouses doctrinally and who seem intimidating and aloof in the pulpit, but pull them out and they are humble, kind, caring men. However, due to the size of the church, they can't really know everyone and serve them in the pastoral sense (see your Porn and Paper Pastors post). I have dealt with this by seeking pastoral leadership from the heads of my fellowship group, which works fine, if you are humble enough to submit to them (do a post on that Dan!)

All this being said. I think alot of guys come out of seminary thinking that a pastor's only job is to preach the word right on the Lord's Day. I have seen and experienced that kind of pastoring. I didn't like it a whole lot. I don't know the answer, but maybe it's where the elders and other more mature among us need to fill in. Sorry for the rambling.

Looking forward to having you provide all the answers in your next post! :)

Frank Turk said...

I apologize for taking this long to say what a great post this is. I was dealing with people.

Frank Turk said...

Eric --

Not because Dan needs defending but because it just ought to be said: I think Dan's diagnosis and analogy are practically irrefutable, and you are a very blessed person not to have witnessed it first-hand.

Spike said...

Perhaps the merging point of doctrine and love is the gospel itself. Relying on the promises of the gospel for peace involves a love of Christ and sound understanding of why that is. To live it is to love it and understand it and want to share it with others. Easy for those relying on it, not so easy if you don't need the gospel for your daily bread or peace.

philness said...

Seems defining the extreme points is moving further away from narrowing in on a balance.

The goal is how to get on balance right?

stratagem said...

Considering the career path now prevailing to become a pastor (seminary degree emphasizing study, study, study), it should not be surprising to see pulpits filled with bookish, reserved people who may not be people-centered or "pastoral" in their proclivities. I would think one should expect that result, given the scholastic emphasis. But maybe I am wrong about that.

Mark B. Hanson said...

By the way, one image that my "well-balanced" pastor often uses is the comparison between shepherd and sheepdog. The sheepdog keeps the sheep together by running around the periphery of the herd, nipping at the heels (do hooves have heels?) of the ones who would stray. Sheep fear and hate sheepdogs. Many pastors and elders seem to think they ought to fulfill a sheepdog's role in the church.

The shepherd, in contrast, doesn't drive his sheep but leads them. They follow because they know him, love him (because he cares for them) and follow his voice. Those that follow him are led away from danger. That is the true role of a church leader: shepherd, not sheepdog.

stratagem said...

Toadies who work for pastors? I like that analogy.

donsands said...

Well done post.

I would say most in our day are people-pastors and people-churches, with a Bible-Lite view of doctrine.

I am blessed to have a pastor who deeply loves the truth of the Word, and has a heart of compasiion for the people in his care.
I would say he is quite seasoned, and perhaps in his early years was a doctrinal kind of pastor, and less a people-pastor.

The Lord helps us all grow more compaasionate, for us who are doctrinites. And those who are people-personites, God has a way of helping them grow to love the truth.
So we are constantly learning how to speak the truth with compassion and love.

Eric said...

Frank,

To be sure, I have witnessed it (and did not say otherwise), but not to the degree or far-reaching extent that Dan seems to have. As I noted, I am not disagreeing with Dan's basic premise, but with his characterization of the extent of the problem, to the point of him insinuating that it is nigh unto impossible to find a church that combines both "Biblical depth and accuracy" and "its practical expression of love, compassion, care, friendliness, and hospitality." I find it difficult to believe that it is "irrefutable" that it is next to impossible to find a church that combines both characteristics when I myself am aware of such churches and I expect a number of other readers are as well. Your definition of "irrefutable" must be different than mine.

stratagem said...

Eric, there is one more possibility: I'm sure Dan's reference point for Biblical depth is a lot deeper than the one I have. (That is a compliment to Dan, not an insult, BTW).

If I were preaching a sermon and happened to see Dan sitting in the pews, it would be the equivalent of someone in vaudeville days telling people backstage that Flo Zeigfeld is in the audience! That would be pressure for sure.

So maybe your definition of a "Biblically deep" preacher is just a lot different than Dan's? Hence, where you see someone who's a people-person with Biblical depth, he sees someone who's a people-person who is not nearly as scholarly as he is.
Just a thought - could be all about one's reference point.

Eric said...

Strat,

While I cannot discount that possibility, I am not apt to believe that Dan's definition of "Biblical depth" is so refined that only the top 1% or so of pastors could be said to meet that standard. I am also no neophyte and am aware of what a lack of Biblical depth looks like. Additionally, I have read this site long enough have a pretty good idea of what Dan's idea of Biblical and doctrinal depth entails, at least if his writings are any indication. Incidentally, I happen to agree in the vast majority of cases, as I do in this case, just not in degree.

Frank Turk said...

Eric --

Since you put it that way, here's what I think is the crux of Dan's point:

[QUOTE]
It seems to be a general rule that private individuals, or public figures (pastors, writers, speakers, debaters) who stand foursquare for the truth often are personally cool, restrained, distant — at best. They (we?) can come off as rude or indifferent; and I'm not just talking about the dodge that the convicted invariably shelter behind, I mean really. Talk about personal matters, confess personal failings, have needs, and their eyes glaze over. The skill of personal connection just isn't theirs.
[/QUOTE]

In that, when Dan says, "standing foursquare for the truth", I take him to mean not a D. A. Carson or an RC Sproul (Happy Birthday, Dr. Sproul) -- but someone who is simply faithful to preach what the word says insofar as he has the ability to do so.

I think that's a lot of guys. In fact, I think those guys would say they are a significant minority among evangelicals. But Dan's point is not how small the minority is in that group.

His point is that however large that group is, somehow what they preach doesn't change who they are. It doesn't make them the kind of man the text implies or plainly states they ought to be -- and in this respect, we aren't appealing to the whole law here. We're thinking specifically of loving people because we love the Lord.

We're thinking simply of the consequence of love when we think about the cause of the Gospel.

Does that make sense, or is this still something you think is untenable?

Eric said...

Frank,

I'm not sure where we are missing each other. I don't recall saying that I don't agree with the main premise that Dan is forwarding, in fact I do recall saying explicitly that I do not "necessarily debate Dan's premise" and that "I am not disagreeing with Dan's basic premise". What I was taking slight exception to was Dan's characterization of the extent of the problem. So no, I don't find his basic premise as explained in the quoted paragraph to be "untenable", nor have I said so. I also do not find that his hyperbolic statement/analogy about snow in the Sahara is "irrefutable". I have also given that this may be due to different exposures that both of us would be subject to, so I am not really being all that critical of Dan that you need to come to his "defense".

Stefan said...

I so rarely get the balance between the two commandments right personally—and even then, only by the grace of God—but your point makes me all the more thankful to God has led me to a church that does strive to obey both commandments. I didn't even know what real Christianity was until He led me there.

mike said...

In the area I live in, it seems that the actual solid but stern group is maybe 30% and the ooey gooey hugging group is 70%.
(Don’t call me names, i read and agree with the post, and accept that there is both good and not so good in both camps.)

Anyway, if polled, I believe that the groups believe that those numbers are transposed.

We must seek truth and love, and both of those must be God's definition of the words.

Dan, I would not have pegged you as a closet ooey gooey guy.

Barbara said...

Oh, my man Edwards had something to say very similar:

Therefore, it is beyond doubt, that too much weight has been laid on the discoveries of God’s greatness, awful majesty, and natural perfection, operating after this manner, without any real view of the holy, lovely majesty of God. And experience does abundantly confirm what reason and Scripture declare as to this matter; there having been very many persons, who have seemed to be overpowered with the greatness and awful majesty of God, but have been very far from a christian spirit and temper, in any proportion, or fruits in practice in any wise agreeable; nay, their discoveries have worked in a way contrary to the operation of truly spiritual discoveries.

Not that a sense of God’s greatness and natural attributes is not useful and necessary. For, as I observed before, this is implied in a manifestation of the beauty of God’s holiness. Though that be something beyond it, it supposes it, as the greater supposes the less. And though natural men may have a sense of the natural perfections of God; yet undoubtedly this is more frequent and common with the saints, than with them. Grace enables men to see these things in a better manner, than natural men do; and not only enables them to see God’s natural attributes, but that beauty of those attributes, which (according to our way of conceiving of God) is derived from his holiness.

(Religious Affections, Vol. 3 Part 3)

All the more call to seek the face and the heart of God by which to love anywhere nearly as we ought.

Just wish we had some good examples to apprentice behind anymore. It would surely help to see what it looks like in practice.

Solameanie said...

I'm naturally aloof. Call it genetic Welsh/British reserve.

philness said...

'Just wish we had some good examples to apprentice behind anymore. It would surely help to see what it looks like in practice.'

I second that of Barbara. Anything less is just a rant. A good rant, but a rant nonetheless.

CR said...

You know, I really appreciate the Bible and the Lord giving us examples of men He chose. Men that had major problems, hiccups and not so good temperaments - Peter with his shooting from hip, Paul with his struggle with pride, and Doubting Thomas. I really thank God for these men because I see myself in these men sometimes. I thank God He gave us examples of men who on many occasions especially some important occasions, exhibited weak faith.

But the one common element is that these men all loved the brethren. I'm wondering if the problem why we don't see many individuals with the compassion that have the head knowledge is just really another symptom of not realizing the great truth of the gospel.

It seems to me we have to go back and ask these people and ourselves this: Have we ceased altogether to look at ourselves or to ourselves in every shape, way and form and are we only looking entirely to Jesus and what he has done on our behalf for salvation?

Do we realize that we can do nothing to make ourselves a Christian? Have we ceased to attempt to do anything to make ourselves a Christian and embraced that salvation is entirely a gift of God and it is a gift given to the ungodly. That faith and repentance are not works but entirely a gift of God and that is not our faith that saves us or our repentance that saves but it is God not reckoning our sin to us but instead Christ's righteousness.

I think it is inevitable that if we realize this great truth and remind ourselves daily of this truth, that we will strive with all our might (by the aide of the Spirit) to please Him and that includes loving others.

Whoever these public figures or individuals are who you say stand "foursquare for the truth..." I would ask, do they really stand foursquare for the truth? Do they realize this great truth? I doubt they have or if they have then they haven't believed the gospel with their heart. They've believed it intellectually, but not with the heart.

I disagree with Eric and I think this problem is more of common problem than he realizes. If we look to the Book of Revelation and appreciate its spiritual application today we see the Lord writing to seven churches – five of which were rebuked and got discommendations and of the remaining two, only one, Philadelphia, got a commodation. Why? Because what was true then about churches (remember, Jesus calls them churches obviously because some in those churches were Christian) has been true for all generations and is true now. Seriously, take each of the seven churches and their problems, and that is exactly the same 7 type of churches there are today. Why? Because only a remnant truly realize the great truth of the gospel.

DJP said...

MikeDan, I would not have pegged you as a closet ooey gooey guy.

Yeah, imagine my surprise.

DJP said...

Can't make any sense out of any of your comments, Philness.

Chris said...

I can totally relate to this post especially having come out of a charismatic-Pentecostal background in which I experienced a genuine warmth and love from others yet would become extremely frustrated because doctrine was seen as a hindrance to that expression. Now I am in more reformed circles yet don't know if it's me, but I often perceive a coldness. I don't know.

DJP said...

It probably isn't you, Chris, as most are agreeing. Do your best to seek God's grace to be a warm little coal in your church-fireplace.

You know, after all - it oooooonly takes a spaaaaaaaaaaaark.....

(c;

Jim Pemberton said...

Coming in late here. I had thought the same thing that Eric has been saying as I read this post. As a musician I have been in many churches and denominations. As a product of Columbia Bible College I’m interested to see how the scriptures differently interpreted affect people’s spiritual lives.

At this, you have to be clear on your understanding of the outward working of love. For those who love propositional truth but confuse mere behavioral obedience for true righteousness, love is making sure that people assent to it and behave in accordance with it. For those whose gift of mercy causes them to worship the comfort of people who are hurting rather than the holy God, they tend to compromise scriptural truth in favor of social ministry and call it “love”. These are type 1) and type 2)

However, we’ve missed a few classes of people:

Type 3) There are those who study Biblical theology for their own sake. They tend to not to love at all, but rather worship their own understanding.

Type 4) There are those who study the Bible diligently who are astute in it’s deeper teachings and earnestly love others deeply and try to do the best for others without compromising propositional truths, but understanding that spiritual Truth transcends mere propositions resulting in a heart for the Kingdom of God and cultivating this heart in others by truly loving them in every way possible. I would that we were all like this.

Type 5) There are those who are not Biblically astute, but yet truly have a heart for the Kingdom of God. If they thought they could understand the scriptures, they would study them more diligently and reach conclusions that are well within orthodox Christianity. These are probably most of the proverbial 20% in the church who do 80% of the work.

Type 6) Most churchgoers fit into this category. They aren’t Biblically knowledgeable, don’t particularly love others, and don’t have much of a heart for the Kingdom of God. Nevertheless, they show up for church enough Sunday mornings to be recognized, but that’s about it because they consider their presence a commitment rather than a joy. They certainly don’t have the heart to get involved with the ministry of Christ in their local church because they aren’t motivated by any love for Christ and his people.

Type 7) Rank apostates. They are biblically trained and desire to stunt the spiritual growth of enough Type 6 people as possible. They know the truth, but would rather espouse lies. They may appeal to some false notion of love to bolster their arguments, but do not generally get involved with social ministry themselves.

Type 8) Spiritual deviants. They have a pattern of sin or subscribe to popular cultural philosophies that they desire to bolster with scriptural arguments so they can be considered a Christian because they have some Christian history or see some hope in Christianity, false as their notions of hope are. They think that making scriptural arguments justifying sin is a loving thing to do. They listen to type 2 and type 7 people because they can find the best distortions of scripture there that support what they want to be true. This is a growing group of people in the United States and encompasses churchgoers who are social liberals and most who consider themselves emergent.

There are certainly some small categories I’ve missed, like possibly politicians, but I think I’ve covered almost all groups.

My observations from this are that we need to be clear on what godly love truly is and understand that academically knowing and assenting to propositional truths doesn’t necessarily result in the working of spiritual Truth on the inclinations of one’s heart. True love may be worked without a good foundation of propositional truth, but those who have such selfless wisdom and desire for God will want to learn more of such truths as have been revealed in scripture so that the working out of Truth may be more certain.

David Rudd said...

Jim,

I'm quite confident dan was not trying to classify all people (pastors) in an either/or distinction. in fact, i'm pretty sure he wasn't really even trying to create categories...

i think the point is that we should all strive to love God by representing Him as HE says He is, and that the relational spheres within which we do that should reflect His definition of love (as opposed to what some have offered up as "love" that is in reality just feelgoodery).

but, i do think your taxonomy of people is quite conclusive!

Daryl said...

Dan,

Great post. Pretty much undodgeable.

Unless, of course;

"OH YEAH?? WELL I...I...I...i do that too...all the time...if it's not one it's the other and I just can't seem to get it right."

Unless that's a dodge.

Thank God for Jesus, 'cause man, I'm a miserable failure.

CR said...

I would agree with Dan, Chris, hang in (persevere) there.

I think the good thing to remember, for all of us, is that loving our neighbor (fellow-man) or brethren in Christ is this: we do it as a response to the gospel and out of fear, awe and reverence for and of Christ. The Old Testament dealt with submission to God's ruled expressed in loving obedience to Him and compassion towards others. In the OT they were to do all this out of regard to God's greatness in power and holiness (Lev 29:13-14).

We could rightly deduce that the absence of love and compassion for our fellow man and brethren is an indication of the absence of the fear of God. And the absence of the fear of God is the essential characteristic of the unbeliever. (Ps 36:1-4).

Dave B said...

Was thinking about this post on the way back from church this morning and something struck me. It's not original, to be sure, but here's my premise: if a person really set about trying to make good on either one of these commands, not just paying it lip service, but really pursuing it, he would soon realize how interdependent they are.

Take loving your neighbor: when you make it your goal to live out daily, costly love of those in your path, you realize how empty and inept we are to do just that, and are driven to your knees before God. This is so different from that which simply poses as love, "the great sin of our day" (as you say), which says to neighbor, "let's all agree to require nothing of each other," that we may be free from restraint and authority. Mere tolerance can be achieved without God, but then it is only a parody of the second greatest commandment.

And then the flipside. If we really make it our goal to love God wholeheartedly, we cannot get very far before we run into troubling patterns of God's own great and costly love for the unlovable, some of them more dithering, some of them more contentious, some perfect messes like us. This love that God loves with, incarnated by Jesus, is so different than the puffed-up piousness that is its counterfeit – that which turns people into objects upon which to demonstrate Godly zeal. Self-righteousness we can achieve without loving our neighbor, but then it is only a parody of the greatest commandment. Really pursue either one of the commands in good faith to their end, and you come out right into the other. That's my premise, anyways.

So thanks for making me think, even if I should have been thinking about my pastors message on the way back from church. (I guess that makes you my paper pastor, Dan… appreciated that post, too.)

Jack said...

Seems to me that churches who are solid on the doctrine but poor at loving people, are disobeying the 1st great commandment as much as the 2nd - they love to be 'right' rather than love God. They are trying to be justified by right doctrine.

Churches who seem good at loving others but are poor on the theology side, are seeking to be justified by serving others. It's therefore not genuine love, and they also are disobeying both commands.

The way to genuine love for God and our neighbour is realising that we have already been justified by Christ alone! Before we even dare set out to obey God's command to love, we must learn of God's love for us... we love because he first loved us.