I’m sure, like me, you’ve come across it. You’ve faced it at the grocery store, or in conversations with neighbors. Perhaps it’s come up in your personal relationships, maybe even within the conversations between you and your own spouse. There’s a dangerous trend going around, one which I have witnessed myself over and over again. It’s a trend that equates taking a bias (defined by Wikipedia as a “disproportionate weight in favor of or against an idea or thing, usually in a way that is closed-minded, prejudicial, or unfair”) and using Scripture to support that bias. Love your neighbor, do XYZ is a common one circulating.
I’ve certainly been guilty of this during conversations both on and offline. But God, rich in his mercy and abundant in grace, has stretched me a little thinner, bringing me much more clarity on what HIS love looks like in the midst of a time surrounding so much disagreement.
Love Your Neighbor, Do XYZ.
“Love your neighbor, vote this way.”
“Love your neighbor, wear a mask.”
“Love your neighbor, vaccinate your children.”
“Love your neighbor, don’t support the police.”
“Love your neighbor, fight for the freedoms entitled to in America.”
For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’Galatians 5:14 ESV
Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.Romans 13:10 ESV
Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.Phillipians 4:5 ESV
One look at the word “reasonableness” and I tend to think, “Ok, don’t be a jerk, or temperamental.” At first place, it expresses a certain temperament to me. In the NKJV the word has been translated as “gentleness.” Vines Complete Expository Dictionary of the Old and New Testaments describes this term as:
expresses an active dealing with others; in contrast with meekness, found in 2 Corinthians 10:1, which is more especially a temperament of habit or mind.
My NKJV Study Bible defines gentleness as a noun that:
identifies a person who manifests a calmness and fairness of spirit. A person who is gentle is willing to sacrifice his or her own personal rights to show consideration to others.
Love Your Neighbor: Deny Your Personal Rights
Is it a personal right to be able to vote for the party we believe is the best choice? To decide whether or not to partake in mask wearing? To vaccinate ourselves or our children, or choose not to? Is standing by law enforcement while desiring (and fighting against) racial issues that have lasted throughout too many generations the wrong choice? What about simply having the right to make any of these decisions in the first place, because we live in the land of the free, because of the brave?
All of these things might be personal rights, but they are not God-given rights. Personal rights are granted to us by America and each of these specific topics have a legitimate argument against them. There is an argument supporting why their bias is the “right” one.
It’s also noteworthy to mention that nowhere in Scripture, biblical history, or even of prophecy of what is yet to come is the illusion of freedom being a necessity to Christians. On the contrary, God’s people have suffered persecution for lack of freedom due to their profession of their faith. This doesn’t mean God abandons his people, instead:
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness.2 Peter 1:3 ESV
Examples of this are provided countless times throughout both the old and the new testaments. God provides us with all things. Whether we have freedom granted to us by our governing authorities or not, we have all things in him.
Seeking to Understand the Opposing Viewpoint
If we spend our time falling into one bias, while not seeking out the truth of the opposing view, what happens? We have a one-sided argument. We have a belief that what we decided to do is the absolute only way. Does failing to seek to understand an opposing view show love to that person holding the opposing view? In my experience, it doesn’t. I’m guessing if you’ve ever decided to do something out of the ordinary in your lifetime, that you’d agree.
I’ve been the minority on many issues in my adult life. Most recently, the mask mandates have caused me a lot of conflict within my own heart and convictions. I see the data that expresses that masks have helped keep illnesses from spreading from person to person in close quarters, and I see data that expresses it doesn’t make a lick of difference. The arguments over this subject are endless.
Where does the love of neighbor come into play, here?
Someone with a legitimate medical condition preventing them from being able to breathe with a mask covering their airways encounters someone who would only feel safe around that person if they choose to wear one… what is to be done in a situation like this? The person who struggles to breathe wearing a mask could show them love by wearing one anyways, or the mask-wearer could show love by being clear that it’s ok if that person cannot safely breathe while wearing one.
Love Your Neighbor: Walk in Step With Undeniable Truth
These are the hard realities we are all attempting to cope with. There are so many sides to every story, causing further confusion to ensue. The only thing I’ve found to combat that chaotic confusion, is undeniable truth. Where does one look to find that truth? God’s Word answers that exact question for us.
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV
We must, as believers, as professors of Christ, seek Scripture to make sense of the mud of culture. It’s efficient.
For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself.Romans 14:7 ESV
Our actions, every single one of them, affect others. Our actions always affect someone, but not everyone is affected by our actions.
Therefore let us not pass judgement on one any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.Romans 14:13 ESV
Judgement. There it is. If I find myself questioning another person either for choosing to wear, or choosing not to wear a mask, I’m already in the position to sin. I’m already disobeying God’s command to love my neighbor. This is the pivotal issue over the argument to choose to decide for someone else what loving their neighbor equates to.
Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.Romans 14:18-19 ESV
Pursue what makes for peace and mutual upbuilding. Is telling someone they are foolish for a choice they made providing an opportunity to upbuild one another or to make peace?
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.Romans 12:18 ESV
Scripture Does Not Contradict Itself
It’s a comfort to know, as a believer, that Scripture does not contradict itself. The world, full of all of it’s opinions and ideas, is full of contradiction. No matter what we decide on any matter, there’s a contradictory idea that surfaces against that decision. Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation is consistent and tells the same redemptive story over and over again of a God that loves his people and wants them to walk in unity with their Creator.
When we attach a bias, opinion, or idea onto something God-breathed, we are likely going to find that there is something else in Scripture that will contradict our belief and/or stance on that thing. When we do this, as Christians, we also make something appear authoritative that was never intended to be that way. God’s Word cannot be inerrant, but our biases certainly can be.
What Happens When We Use Scripture to Support our Bias
When we use Scripture to support our bias, we are no longer just “spreading truth” but instead, we are (even if unintentionally) causing quarrels within the body of believers. For example, “Love your neighbor, wear a mask,” twists the biblical principle stated in Galatians 5:14 into the bias that wearing a mask is beneficial for all. It completely ignores the love for the neighbor that cannot wear a mask, due to history of trauma or a medical condition preventing them from breathing properly with it on. Does that sound like what God meant when he told us we should love our neighbor as ourselves?
Instead of morphing Scripture with our biases to support our views, let’s choose instead to do what we are commanded to in the Word of God.
But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”Matthew 22:34-40 ESV
Choose to Believe the Best About Others
Believing the best about another human being that was created in the image of God is loving that person. This means when we witness someone wearing a mask, we actively choose to believe the best about them (that they are doing what they believe will best love others). When we witness someone wearing a mask with their nose exposed, we choose to believe the best about them (that they are doing what they believe will best love others). When we see someone not wearing a mask at all, we choose to believe the best about them (that they are doing what they believe will best love others).
As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions.Romans 14:1 ESV
So what do we do with all of this, as followers and believers in Jesus Christ?
The answer is quite simple: If someone is doing something that you immediately disagree with at first glance, like wearing a mask, respect their choice. Choose to honor them whether you agree or disagree. If someone is not wearing a mask, respect their choice and choose to honor them whether you agree or disagree.
I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord.Philippians 4:2 ESV
This was not a plea simply for the sake of avoiding an argument with Euodia and Syntyche. It was a plea to not allow differences to impact our unity with one another in Jesus Christ and his work he did for us on the cross. Let us agree in the Lord, despite our disagreements.