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  • Tabitha Caplinger

Don't Lose The Love

Updated: Jan 29

"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but so that the world might be saved through Him." John 3:16-17 NASB

We are entering an election year and that means a lot of people will probably get a lot angrier on the internet...and in real life...maybe...most likely. We feel the stakes and we have strong opinions and values. That's not a bad thing...necessarily. But, there are a lot of people who make more money when they get more clicks, and they get more clicks when we are scared and angry. If they can stoke our emotions, no matter who wins an election, they end up on top. (Learn about how algorithms work to better understand this.)

But beyond media moguls, there is a very real enemy who has the same game plan he's always steal, kill, and destroy. He loves division. He loves to separate and tear down. It can be so easy to fall into the traps he lays that push us to devalue and dehumanize others with categories and boxes, and "us. vs. them" mindsets. He loves it when we forget that there is a real person on the other side of that issue, one created in the image of God with inherent who is possibly hurting and broken, one who needs Jesus as much as we do. He loves it when we forget that we are called to be merciful, to be peacemakers. He loves it when we put opinions ahead of people.

We don't have to fall for his nonsense. We don't have to join in the division. We can contend for unity. Why should we? Because where there is unity God commands a blessing. Because we are Kingdom citizens with a Kingdom mission above all else--to know God and make Him known--to love God with all we are and to love our neighbors as ourselves.

We can't lose sight of love. God is love. God is motivated by love toward us. We should be motivated by love towards others. Not fear. Not pride. Not personal preferences. Love.

My pastor recently made the statement, "I'm not trying to win anything, I'm just trying to be loving." Too often, we get more concerned with winning arguments, rather than loving people to Jesus. Because the TRUTH of the Gospel is our mission, it's our primary objective, and it should inform everything we do. We are living, breathing, speaking, acting representatives of a living and loving God. It's His kingdom first. His mission first.

That doesn't mean we can't or shouldn't engage with politics and culture, but we have to do it His way. So, how?

How do we share our opinions without losing love?

I think the first thing we have to do is make sure our opinions align with His. We have to make sure our values align with His values. When we do that, our hearts will align with His heart and we will love what He loves. (Hint: God loves people.) We have to dig into the Word and get to know God for who He really is and to see what He really wants from us and for us. We have to check our assumptions and biases at the door, not relying solely on what we've been taught but searching Scripture for ourselves.

I love how Christopher J. Harris recently put it, "The conviction is, not to be a loyalist to a party, but be a loyalist to the text [Bible]."

We have to be students of the Word. The more we do this, the deeper we will know Him. I don't think you can know a God who is love without coming to value loving others the way He does. (We will also see that it's not as cut and dry as red or blue.)

How can we keep the TRUTH a priority?

Love and truth go hand in hand. God is love but He is also truth. Real love speaks truth because the truth sets us free. But...and this is a big but...the truth we prioritize and the truth we speak first is the Gospel. The truth of who Jesus is, our need for Him, and His saving grace are what people need to hear. And they need that truth first. You can't ask or expect someone to act like Jesus, obey Jesus, or live like Jesus if they don't know Jesus. Too often we put the cart before the horse and we try to get people to change their behavior, before introducing them to a good God who can transform their souls.

After all, it isn't our job to change anyone. We don't have that power. But we can introduce them to the God who does. And it is His kindness that leads to repentance, so we have to be models of that kindness and love.

How can we make souls the focus rather than winning arguments?

We have to keep our motives in check. We have to sit and talk to Jesus and let the Holy Spirit shine a light into our hearts. We have to be willing to look at the log in our own eye. Our focus gets skewed when we let fear or pride take the lead. And they can be sneaky. We tell ourselves we are loving people, but we are loving our own comfort more. We tell ourselves we are loving people, but really we are just scared.

The opposite of love isn't hate, it's fear. But, God didn't give us a spirit of fear. He may ask us to do scary things, but He doesn't use fear to motivate us. So, we have to pay attention to our motives. We have to be honest with ourselves about why we are doing or saying or posting certain things. Is it loving others or feeding fear? Is it to point others to Jesus or just our opinion? Does it align with His values (truly)? Am I saying it with grace? Is it fruitful or just adding to the noise?

Oh, and if we really care about loving our neighbors, how we say something is just as important as what we are saying. It doesn't matter if it's the truth if it lacks compassion and love in the way we say it. Our words should be full of grace and hope.

To anyone who's been around here for a while you've heard this before; we have a right to our opinion, but a responsibility to the Gospel. There's so much nuance and complexity to so many issues--there is so little that is black and white, cut and dry--except the Gospel. But the Gospel isn't easy. The Great Commission requires relationships, it requires conversations that are full of empathy, it requires a willingness to not just speak but also to listen. It asks us to be people who are willing to build bridges connecting our hearts to others so Jesus can cross over. As Carlos Whitaker says, "Don't stand on issues walk with people."

We don't have to fear. We serve a loving and good God who is sovereign over all things...including elections. He has plans and purpose. He is present no matter the outcome. In all of it, when we put Jesus and His Kingdom first, we become people full of and fueled by hope. The enemy hates that and the world needs that. So whatever you do or say, whichever conversations you engage in this year, don't lose the love. Don't lose the hope. Don't lose sight of Jesus who is the Way, Truth, and Life.

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