How do Christians take Jesus as the prime example of how to engage the contemporary culture? Let me expand on this:
When I read the Gospels, I see Jesus as the embodiment of truth and love. In other words, to attempt to divorce the two is to make Jesus into what we want him to be. Obviously, when we read John’s Gospel, Jesus, as the Word become flesh, is full of grace and truth (1:14), and is the source of grace and truth (1:17). Jesus describes himself as the way, the truth, and the life, and as such he is the only means to the Father (14:6). Even when Jesus departs, the ministry of truth will continue because the Comforter, who is the Spirit of truth (14:17), will be active both in the church as well as in the world. (1) How do Christians take Jesus as the prime example of how to engage the contemporary culture? Let me expand on this:
As far as love, the New Testament concept closely parallels that of the Old Testament. John writes: “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” Believers need to share with those in need, whether that need is for food, water, lodging, clothing, healing, or friendship (Matt 25:34-40 ; Rom 12:13 ). The love demonstrated in the parable of the good Samaritan shows that agape love is not emotional love, but a response to someone who is in need.
The command to love others is based on how God has loved us. Since believers have been the recipients of love, they must love. Since Christ has laid down his life for us, we must be willing to lay down our lives for our brothers (1 John 3:16 ).
Many people in Jesus’ day believed that a neighbor was a fellow Israelite. When asked to define “neighbor, ” however, Jesus cited the parable of the good Samaritana person who knowingly crossed traditional boundaries to help a wounded Jew (Luke 10:29-37). A neighbor is anyone who is in need. Jesus also told his disciples that a “neighbor” might even be someone who hates them, curses them, or mistreats them. Yet they must love even enemies (Luke 6:27-36) as a witness and a testimony.
The Old Testament charge was to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev 19:18 ). But Jesus gave his disciples a new command with a radically different motive: “Love each other as I have loved you” (John 15:12). (2)
Jesus as the Embodiment of Truth and Love
When we read John 4 where Jesus confronts the Samaritan woman, he speaks truth to her in that he confronts her sin and reveals that He is the Messiah. Of course, all we have to do is go one read John 8 or other passages where Jesus wasn’t remotely restrained to speak the truth to his accusers.
What’s the point?
We live in day when we are pressured to be politically correct. This means that when it comes to the hot button issues like same sex marriage or other issues many Christians tend to back down and simply play the love card. Now why is this? First, there is no doubt that many Christians haven’t been loving and have been overplayed the truth card. In other words, “This is the truth and that’s the way it is.” However, this doesn’t give a Christian full license to just love the person and not discuss the truth issue. I run into this all the time. When the emotions run strong on a particular topic, the truth issue gets put on the back burner. So the bottom line is the following: If you’re going to attempt to emulate Jesus, please read the Gospels and be willing to see him in all his attributes. We do nobody any favors when we only emphasize love at the exclusion of truth. And by the way, while I think we should show great love and compassion, in the end the “love only” approach may end up allowing someone to destroy themselves and others. Sin seems to have a habit of doing that.
1. Andrew L. Smith, “Truth” featured in Walter Elwell, Bakers Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House Company, 1996).
2. Glenn E. Schaefer, “Love” featured in Walter Elwell, Bakers Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House Company, 1996).