On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts~ 1st Thessalonians 2:4
When I was a teenager I had a close friend who had- what I thought at the time-was the coolest Mother in the known universe. She was verbally expressive when it came to professing love for her daughter and she listened to any and all teenage drama (no matter how absurd and trivial) sans judgment of any kind.
There was precious little my friend was not permitted to do and occasionally her Mother would even help her evade the consequences of her actions. One time my friend and I skipped school and her Mom wrote both of us a note to excuse the absences with nothing more than a brief and relatively friendly lecture on the importance of going to school. If my friend’s grades were less than stellar (and they frequently were) her Mom signed the report card without so much as a negative word spoken concerning the issue.
She turned a blind eye as her daughter became sexually active and willfully overlooked disrespect, negligence, underage drinking and even occasional drug use. When questioned about her parenting techniques my friends Mother would wax eloquent on the importance of truly loving and accepting her children in a tangible way.
In retrospect I find this tale utterly appalling.
And not just because I’ve raised a bunch of kids and have learned that decent parenting is about a whole heck of a lot more than accepting your children and making them feel good about themselves. This story horrifies me because I know the ultimate outcome of it all. My friend started using drugs and alcohol, never finished high school and had three children before her 21st birthday. As far as I know she never fully recovered from her choices and the bizarre leadership she received as a child.
I am convinced that my friend’s Mother wasn’t a bad person in the sense that she neglected, abused or was in some way indifferent towards her daughter. There was absolutely no malice in her actions. She simply confused loving someone with being likeable. She cared more about how her kid felt about her in the short-term than the long-term outcome of her daughter’s life.
The most vexing aspect of this story is how often this sort of thing plays out in life. A husband or a wife will (in the name of love) ignore their spouse’s character deficiencies to the detriment of the entire family. A friend will stand by silently and watch as someone they claim to love ventures down an ethically questionable path never warning them of the destruction that lies ahead. A parent will bail an adult child out of problems of their own making and then wonder why the kid never seems to grow-up.
Christians do the same thing sometimes.
We overlook the sins of those we profess to love and soft-peddle the truth of God’s word—not because we don’t believe God or His word— but because deep down inside we really want people to like us more than we want to tell them the truth. We want to be the cool friend, the cool pastor or the cool co-worker and telling the truth about life and eternity is categorically uncool these days.
Dietrich Bonheoffer famously said that cheap grace is characterized by the “preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession.”
Mr. Bonheoffer was correct in his assessment of cheap grace.
Grace and love are inextricably linked. Grace cannot exist without love, because grace is simply an extension of love. This means that if love is counterfeit, then grace will be cheap. Counterfeit love has become appallingly common. At its root counterfeit love is deceptively selfish. The person showing counterfeit love typically wants to love like Jesus loved. But, deep down inside, they want to be liked by others more than they want what’s best for those same people. Which is the exact opposite of loving like Jesus loved.
Authentic love never loses sight of the long game.
A parent who truly loves their child will risk being loathed today to ensure the child becomes a decent human being in the future. A genuine friend will endure a little bit of anger in the here-and-now to save their friend from a lifetime of regret. A genuinely loving Christian will risk offending someone today if it will save that person from an eternity in hell.
It’s time for a revival of the real deal.