I’m back after a long break. I’ve got excuses but I doubt you want to hear them. This weekend I was relaxin’ while reading some articles from one of my favorite magazines Relevant and came across several interesting articles. One such article was by Rebecca Cusey about Dan Merchant, the creator of the provocative documentary Lord, Save Us From Your Followers, which I have yet to see but intend to (although I must confess that the prospect of seeing a documentary in HD surround sound doesn’t sound very exciting).

One of the things that Merchant suggests is that Christian conversation within the public square is out of balance. He suggests that many politically and socially minded Christians focus too much on issues such as abortion and gay marriage. “These are complicated, difficult issues. If you’re a Christian, you give careful thought to what the Bible teaches on law. But we’ve forwarded the gospel of being right versus the gospel of love. We’ve been having the wrong conversation.”

This is a common theme in the postmodern church. The Gospel is a message of grace, forgiveness and redemption. The way to break through and reach unbelievers is through this message. I wouldn’t disagree with this statement. However, does any policital or social interaction with the gospel that speaks only of love to the exclusion or marginalization of law really get to the heart of humanity’s disconnection with Creator God?

Merchant seems to be suggesting that because abortion and gay marriage (as well as others such as divorce, stem-cell research, etc) are difficult issues, that the gospel of love should prevail over the gospel of the law. It seems fair enough to concede that these issues have often illicited a response from “Christians” that is often anything but, well, Christian. People have been marginalized and ridiculed by the Church because of their sin. However, I would suggest that the proper response isn’t to overact by solely focusing on love to the exclusion of law.

There are a couple of problems with this principle. First all all, the gospel of love, culturally, is usually translated as acceptance and tolerance. But is our cultural understanding of acceptance and tolerance a biblical one? We would be remissed if we didn’t ask ourselves whether or not the gospel of love really embraces either. It is true that Jesus befriended sinners. He embraced them as image-bearers created to love, worship and adore the Father. But was Jesus “accepting” of them just as they were? Do we find a case in Scripture where Jesus is tolerant of their sinful condition, saying, “Yes, you are a sinner living in rebellion against God and His holy standards. But it’s okay.” No. On the contrary, it appears that Jesus is calling people out of and away from their sinful habits, whether those are adultery, pride, arrogance, lust, gluttony, materialism, etc.

Secondly, Jesus came to condemn sin, in the flesh. No matter how “difficult” the issues of abortion and homosexuality (or any other deviant choice/habit) may be, they are still defined by Scripture to be sins. This means to call any behavior what it is according to Scripture isn’t necessarily unloving or done in a spirit of self-righteousness. Jesus condemned all sin in his flesh on the cross and the Father vindicated his work by raising his body from the grave in power. He did this “in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh by according to the Spirit” (Rom 8:4). What I think this means is that the gospel of love is most magnified when the gospel of the law is fulfilled in Jesus’ followers.

What does this mean exactly? Well, wasn’t it Jesus who summed up the law by saying that we are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and love our neighbors as ourselves? When you look at love and law from this perspective you see that they aren’t antagonists waging war against one another, but rather, they are meant to work in cooperation with one another. This is what it means to live out the Gospel.