January-February 2016

Written by Daron Brown
From his column Pressing On

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“We cannot let them win,” he sputtered through gritted teeth. He sat across the desk in my study. His face reddened and he shook. He was vein-bulging, voice-raising angry. Most of his wrath was not directed at me but rather toward groups of people he had lumped into one batch. They included persons with opposing social, political, and religious convictions. His goal was to stir fury within me so we could be angry together.

My first instinct was to pinpoint his positions with which I disagreed. I wanted to get defensive and return fire. Thankfully, I couldn’t find an opening. His breathless monologue ran on as my desire to fight back wore off. As I watched him boil, I began to do what I often do when I don’t know what to do—I prayed—asking the Lord for wisdom and for words.

When he finished fuming, I began to speak. What came out was smarter than me. I believe the Holy Spirit directed my speech: “I know you are passionate about these issues, and I believe you are probably right about many of them. But my question for you is this: Are you demonstrating a spirit of holy love? Because what is less important is how right you are. What is more important is how loving you are.”

Silence filled the space between us. I thought about my role as his pastor. His formation in Christlikeness is one of my primary responsibilities, and that charge extends beyond preaching and teaching. Even moments like these are occasions for me to call him to growth in Christlikeness. In those seconds, the Lord gave me a sense of clarity about my own call. I was not to agree or to argue. I was not to let his issues become the issue. Rather, the issue was his holiness. So I broke the silence and pushed further: “Are you demonstrating a spirit of holy love toward the people with whom you disagree?”

“I don’t know,” the long-time Nazarene shot back as if the thought had never occurred to him.

“Well, let me encourage you to think and pray about how the Lord wants you to respond to others in a spirit of holy love. That does not mean you have to agree with them. But, as a follower of Christ, you are called to love with the love of Jesus.”

Jesus himself was tested and tried on many occasions by those who disagreed with Him. On one prominent occasion, the Sadducees and Pharisees colluded against Jesus. These two groups were opposing parties, but nothing unites enemies like a common enemy. They approached the Lord with the question: “Which is the greatest commandment in the law?” Jesus responded with “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40, TNIV).

If love truly is the greatest commandment, then the greatest sin is the violation of this commandment. The greatest sin is choosing not to love. A person can be right on every issue. But if they are not loving, they are wrong.

Love is not only the right answer, it is the right response. Such love is not manufactured from within. It takes the fierce love of God in Christ that takes hold of us and turns us inside out. When His love transforms us, our lives are rearranged. It is then that His holy love shines through us toward others, not because they deserve it, but because our lives have been rearranged by Christ’s love.

My friend still comes around. Our conversations are no longer marked with anger. I believe it is still there, beneath the surface, but so is the holy love of God. My hope is that God’s love will prevail as He continues to shape us all into His image.

Daron Brown lives and pastors in Waverly, Tennessee.

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