In his book, The Hole in Our Holiness: Filling the Gap between Gospel Passion and the Pursuit of Godliness, Kevin DeYoung authored this statement that jumped off the page to me. Parents have practical insight into understanding unconditional love because this is the type of love we have for our children; however, this love does not exclude implementing discipline on their child when they’re disobedient. This family dynamic offers a micro version of how God the Father relates to His children, loving unconditionally, but not affirming their disobedience.
Our understanding of what love is can be muddied by our carnal desires and tainted by what our culture says. Much of the time, we are guilty of equating love with affirmation and this notion is completely unbiblical. Affirming sin in the lives of those we love is not, and never will be, the outpouring of true love. When your adult child comes to you, sharing that they’ve accepted their homosexual lifestyle as part of their identity, or a married friend confesses that they’ve strayed from their vows and indulged in pornography or dabbled in an affair, it is not affirmation of these sins that we need to pour into them, but love. By walking through their struggles with them, knowing that we, too, indulge in the passions of the flesh, but always referring to Scripture as our guide, never swaying from the clear boundaries God has given us in His Word or twisting them to rationalize our sin.
He redeemed us before He gave us those boundaries. Notice in Exodus, the Ten Commandments were given after Israel was brought out of Egypt. We are His chosen people, and His love is unconditional. His redeemed, so that we cannot lose our standing before Him, through Christ. Just as our children are loved by us before they’re able to comprehend boundaries, but as they grow, we implement them. By this, we know that He loved us first. And also, that His love extends by making known the laws we should strive to keep, for our own good and for His glory.
Jesus says He did not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17). Really let that verse sink in before you understand it to mean that the Law is no longer relevant. Jesus doesn’t affirm sin in His followers unconditionally. He shows them their sin and tells them to go and sin no more (John 8:11). Parents do this with their children, trusted friends and accountability partners do this and, we, as members of the body of Christ, are called to do the same. When we see a brother or sister in Christ in unrepentant sin, to truly love them means we must practice that very method. There that fine balance between grace and truth lies again. However, the greater danger is when we treat sin with indifference in our loved ones. Although that route seems easier and without painful confrontation, we are not honoring God, or really loving our neighbors as ourselves, more by our silence. Our fear of God, rather than of what man will think of us, should be our motivation.
Obviously, things can get incredibly messy in all types of relationships where sin is brought to light. People get angry, hurt, or completely sever the relationship in response. It is incredibly important that your denial of the sin as truth is in accordance with Scripture, not by your own interpretation of what sin is. Citing 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, where Paul says that “neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God,” but neglecting to read on into verse 11, where he adds, “and that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God,” is a common mistake we make in the confrontation of sin. Our approach must be made with humility and not with a spirit of self righteousness. Do your research, check yourself and your motivations beforehand and throughout, so that you’re conscience can be clear before God.
Love does not equal unconditional affirmation. God gives us His love, He gives us His conditions, and He gives us His love still. Sometimes He disciplines us when we stray, sometimes our hardships are consequences of our sin, sometimes He puts people in our lives to challenge our ways against His, but all of the time, He is loving us.