Author: Ron Graham
There's an idea that true love sees only the good in people and ignores the negative; its kindly blind to their faults and appreciates their nobler points..
The very people who complain about Hollywood-style love will hold to the idea that true love will see only the good in people and will not take account of their wrongs. This notion of Christian love is just as superficial and dangerous as the Hollywood version.
In Galatians 2:11-21 Paul tells of how, "when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed." He accused Peter of "playing the hypocrite" in the Antioch church.
Yet Paul, says that love "keeps no account of evil". (1Corinthians 13:4-5). Here Paul is referring to holding grudges and seeking revenge. Paul didn't do that, but he did call Peter to account so that the wrong could be corrected.
There are four points applicable to the idea that true love sees only the good in people. These points will help us to understand the matter more fully.
True love comes from God and we are to love as God loves 2:6-11) . Someone will say, "But God is perfect; He has the right to judge, and the ability to do so consistently with his love. We are imperfect, so we cannot."
Yet Jesus clearly said, "Love one another as I have loved you" (John 15:12) . We can (and should) love as God loves.
Some consider God's love to be unconditional. Yet Jesus had earlier said, "If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love" (John 15:9-10. Later he said, "You are my friends if you do whatever I command you" (John 15:14) .
The old standard of love was, "Love thy neighbour as thyself". If we love ourselves (in the best sense), we discipline ourselves, knowing that neglect would be detrimental to our own best interests. Should we then excuse others or remain blind to their evil?
The new standard of love makes it even more imperative that we take proper account of the evil in others. God the Son set this new standard when he said, "Love one another as I have loved you" .
Does Jesus love us by overlooking our sin and insist that we do the same for others? No, he forgives, and expects us to forgive, and that is not the same as being blind to sin or ignoring it. Forgiveness is a process that takes account of sin and duly deals with it in mercy and in justice.
The Bible says that love "covers a multitude of sins" (1Pet 4:8) . But how does it cover them? True love deals with sin effectively that it may be genuinely blotted out. True love never merely sweeps sin under the carpet. It never ignores or overlooks sin.
Only "he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins" (James 5:20). That is God's way of love --not to leave sin unchallenged, but rather to turn sinners from the error of their ways.
I have occasionally been accused of "lacking love" because I levelled an accusation at someone. If love sees only the good in others, then love does not accuse. Yet those who claim to be loving do accuse —they have accused me of being unloving!
Are we to say, then, that there is no lack of love in accusing the accuser of lacking love?
What a riddle that would be, and all the more curious, since to call someone unloving is the worst accusation you can make. If you say a person does not love, that is tantamount to calling that person godless. For "he who does not love, does not know God..." (1John 4:8).
Most of us know of some case where a person who spoke out against error was accused of lacking Christian love and spiritual graces. That accusation was accompanied by remarks about the person's own failings. These remarks were hurtful, belittling, unfair. The pot had called the kettle black.
The Bible says, "Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in the spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted" (Galatians 6:1) .
This shows that we should not be blind to evil, whether in others or in ourselves. But more than that: it is with the same eyes that we perceive evil in others and in ourselves. If we blind our eyes to another's evil, how shall we have eyes to see our own evil?
Jesus died for the forgiveness of sins. If you do not see sin in others, then neither do you see their need of the blood of Jesus. You cannot have it both ways.
When you point your finger at people's need of the cross, what are you pointing your finger at? You are not pointing at the good in them, for Jesus did not die to save them from that, but he died rather that they might have remission of their sins (Matthew 26:28) . So when you preach the gospel to people, you are pointing at their sins. And that is the loving thing to do.
You may object that no, it is the Holy Spirit who is convicting them of sin, you are just the instrument, and make no judgment yourself. But as God's instrument you must concur with what God is doing through you. And God is not seeing only the good in people --he is seeing the evil in people and urging them to see it. What virtue is there in your being blind to it?