Monday, October 4, 2010

Love: The Highest Virtue

American culture has a high regard for practicing tolerance.  This shows a shift in culture. In part that shift brings a cultural freedom to allow people to be themselves without fear of being discriminated against.  Of course, we, as a culture, haven’t reached that ideal, but it is rapidly becoming a social norm. 

In the past, people still did the things that were not socially acceptable for whatever reason, but did them in secret.  Somehow we thought this preferable because we can ignore what we didn’t approve of and go on our merry way.  Now a new wave of cultural tolerance continues to take shape.  Enough time has not passed to see what the affects will be on society. 

C.S. Lewis once commented that church attendance at Oxford had been compulsory. He preferred the change of it not being mandatory, because now people could be themselves and not pretend to be something they didn’t want to be because society demanded it.  He said the former was helping no one, and the later created conditions for real change for the right reasons. 

A shift is happening in the Church as well.  Not in all churches, but in the environment of many churches across the nation and globally.  This shift can look like tolerance to the untrained eye, but there is something deeper something more life changing in this shift.  It’s a shift of love and freedom. 

A culture of freedom is being issued forth within some key international ministries.  This freedom is one that wants people to be who they are without fear of punishment, ostracizing, or discrimination. It is a freedom that loves enough to not require people to hide their junk.  This is accomplished through love. 

Perfect love cast out all fear.  Love is a value that is higher than the value of tolerance and requires more of the giver than tolerance.  However, true love is not something you have to work up for people it is something we acquire from experiencing God’s love.  Our heart gets filled up with His supernatural love and it pours out to people.  That love doesn’t expect people to hide their junk.  It also rejoices in the truth.  It doesn’t call bad good to make a person feel better, but it also doesn’t point out the faults of others.  It points out the truth about the real you. 

In contrast, tolerance leaves people in their bondage by celebrating it with them. It says, not only do I have no right to call anything you do wrong, I think it is totally awesome that you do what you do and I hope you keep it up and that you never listen to anyone that says it isn’t right. 

Love says I’ll be your friend no matter what your hang ups are. It quietly waits until the person wants to be free from those hang ups and asks how that could happen.  All the while, love speaks out the truth about that person. Love releases kindness, compassion, and peace to that person. Love builds them up, rather than tearing them down. Love makes their heart fly.  Love gently cuts the ropes that bind them.

It points out how special a person is. How good they are. How delightful they are to the Kingdom of God and how much God loves them.  It doesn’t rejoice in their faults, or tell them all about how much they messed up. It rejoices in who God made them to be and helps by coming along side them and walking out that true life moment by moment. 

There are times when rebukes, justice, punitive actions, have a place, but these would be few and far between in a culture of freedom and love.  These would be akin to the rare times a child would need a spanking rather than the predominate response to the junk in the lives of those living in our community or in relationship with us. 

Tolerance has been a response society has vied for in contrast to the religious legalism that was once predominating in America.  Now such people are looked at as fundamental fanatics are not seen in a good light by most anybody.  This is a good shift. There was an error in the response of the Church to people in and outside of church community that caused society at large to take measures contrary to that sentiment. 

The Church should have been the one to lead this charge of the way of love rather than needing a movement of tolerance.  I apologize on behalf of the Church for the necessity of a tolerance movement.  If we had been practicing love, there would have been no need for this.  I am excited to see and be a part of the shift that is happening in the Church to build a culture of freedom, honor, and love that will not only change churches and ministries across the globe, but the home and marketplace as well.  Great things are coming.  

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