There tends to be some confusion in the Christian world when a belileverhugs another believer and says they love him. Too often, the latter misinterprets that action. One example comes in the following article
Controversial televangelist Jim Bakker has said that the late Rev. Billy Graham once visited him in prison in some of the lowest moments of his life, where he hugged him and told him that he loves him.
This should be done more often. The easy thing to do is pile on with the majority and add to the woes of those who have lost it all or struggle in their Christian life. We are not going to say whether or not Mr. Bakker is a Christian or not, that is not our call nor the goal of this article. He is merely being used as an example here. It is easy to misunderstand the actions of someone following Mr. Graham’s example of loving people.
The first thing we need to point out is that Mr. Graham has given us an earthly example of how God loves us. No matter what Mr. Bakker did, where he is residing or what job he is doing, or even if he lost his family, God still loves Mr. Bakker. That is a given. The second thing is, we should all follow that example but it is not always easy to do so.
But, with that said, we should point out what that act of love is not doing. This is where some misunderstanding or misinterpretation comes in. Loving someone like Mr. Graham did does come with restrictions. First, that act of displaying God’s love, does not accept sin. There is no acceptance of the sin(s) that Mr. Bakker committed. The latter would have to go through the repentance/forgiveness process to become clear from his wrongdoing.
Second, the act of loving someone as God does, does not legitimize the actions of the person being loved. By this we mean that sinful behavior is not suddenly made holy.Third, this act of love does not validate any misguided or wrong beliefs held by the one being loved. They are not being told that any erroneous beliefs they may hold to are acceptable and do not need changing.
Loving someone in this manner, as demonstrated by Mr. Graham, only states that the person is loved. It does not mean that the person receiving the love is living according to what God has said or wants. It does not mean that the person receiving the love does not need to re-examine their beliefs, behavior, or whatever. It also does not mean one gets to ignore God’s rules.
Jesus was described as the friend of sinners but in that friendship, Jesus did not compromise the words of his father, his message, his church. Nor did he alter the plan of salvation and let sinners enter his kingdom with sins still in their lives. While he let Judas remain in his group of disciples, he did not approve of Judas’ sins. Loving another person is possible without loving the sins they commit. It is also possible to love them without legitimizing or validating their sinful lives.
Love another person does not alter or remove any of God’s instructions, rules or commands. You will notice that by Mr Graham’s actions, he did not become like Mr. Bakker. He did not change his beliefs or joined Mr. Bakker in his sinful actions. Mr. Graham stayed on God’s side. There are many people who, because of a loved one’s decision to be a part of sin, have altered their own beliefs and joined in with their sinful child or other family members.
Jesus said, he who loves their family more than him are not worthy of him. Loving family more than God is seen in this example. You can love your family member but you cannot leave God and his ways if you want to be worthy of Jesus. It is a difficult choice, but it must be made. You need to love God above your own relatives.
Now we should state that all people hugged and told that they are loved are not all commtting sin, believing false theology, or disobeying God. The righteous need love and hugs as well. Then it should be said that love is not mindless nor gives blind support. It points out, at the right time, where another person is in error or making mistakes. Love does not provide personal, subjective opinion, but God’s clear objective guidance.
It is not too difficult to misundertand or misinterpret a hug or love from another believer. It is up to us to be honest with ourselves and make our own calling and election sure. But again, that does not mean we get to create our own beliefs, our own vision of God or Christianty. It means that we make sure we are truly following God and his ways.
We do not reinvent Christianity but humble ourselves to follow it correctly.