When Christian Love Needs to be Tough
By Vanessa Rasanen
There is much about this life in faith that seems confusing to those who live outside it. This shouldn’t shock us, of course, since God tells us quite clearly that His word is folly to those who don’t believe. They won’t understand why we give so much of our income to the church — even before putting any into our own savings. They don’t get why we wake up early every Sunday to get to church even when there’s a foot of snow outside. And they certainly cannot fathom why we would dare to share something as personal as our faith with those who have no interest in it.
Yet some of these things are oddly confusing even to those within the church catholic. We brothers and sisters in Christ squabble over everything from tithing to worship practices to how best to witness to others. These discussions are worthwhile, of course — some more than others, as the devil always seeks to attack us hardest where Jesus is found — His Word and Sacraments. It’s why we have so much discord among us over baptism, communion, and confession. Similarly, there are areas of our Christian life where the world — the devil’s domain — has infiltrated and convinced many of us to choose the easy path, the path away from Christ.
We see this when we remain silent when we should be sharing the Gospel of Christ with our neighbors. Our fear of offending our non-believing family and friends keeps our tongues still. Lord have mercy on us for choosing this earthly comfort and so-called peace over sharing His saving grace with those who need it.
We also fail our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ when we choose to turn a blind eye to their missteps and sins. Instead we let the world convince us that it’s not our place to call out our neighbor, that we should keep quiet because we aren’t perfect either and need to instead address that darn plank in our own eye. The world takes God’s Word and twists it in order to convince us that under no circumstance should we judge our neighbor. Ever.
We are to live and let live, let everyone be themselves. We are to mind our own business, limit unsolicited advice, butt out, and just be a friendly shoulder to lean on and ear to vent to.
But no! This isn’t how we love our neighbors, and we know it! Don’t we?
If a friend was breaking the law — robbing a bank, embezzling money, abusing children — we would speak up (I hope!). If a loved one was plotting to commit a crime, we would try to stop them. We would warn them to not go down that path, to find another way. We would do whatever we could to intervene. Again, at least I hope we would.
But God’s law trumps man’s law, and while there may not be earthly consequences for some sins, the spiritual consequences are serious. As such we should be all the more willing and persistent in warning those walking down a dangerous path.
When that friend is committing adultery, we say stop it! When they are gossiping and spreading rumors, we tell them to knock it off. When they are missing church, we tell them to shape up and get their butt back in that pew. When they are placing worldly pleasures over Godly pursuits, we bring them back to the faith.
Yes, it’s uncomfortable. Yes, it puts our earthly relationships at risk. Yes, it is hard!
Do it anyway! This is how we serve our neighbors. This is how we love them — by supporting them in their faith, by keeping them focused on Christ, by calling them to repent, and by forgiving them. We do them no good and show them no love by turning a blind eye to their sins, thereby enabling them to continue in them and condoning their behavior.
Let us call each other to repentance with God’s Truth spoken in love. Let us watch over our brothers and sisters, guarding them against the prowling lion and the world’s twisting of Holy Scripture. Let’s keep our church family rooted in Christ.
Even when — especially when — times are tough. It is then that our Christian love needs to be tougher.
I need to call family back to Church. It is very difficult for me to do this as I am afraid I will lose their love, and as ashamed as I am to admit it, I am afraid they will mock me behind my back. Please pray for me to find the words and confidence that Christ will always prevail.