Love Your (Theological) Enemies

Love Your (Theological) Enemies:

I find it hard enough to love the people I agree with.

So how can I love someone on the other side, especially when the things that divide us are theological principles that really matter?

Disagreements Are Inevitable

Since the time of the apostles, the church has always had its theological disputes. I often wish that I could live at a time or in a place that was controversy-free.

Yet a sober look at human nature and the limitations of our understanding makes it clear that there will always be theological disagreements. If we care about biblical truth, inevitably we will find ourselves engaged in some of these disagreements, and our love will be tested to the limit.

1 Corinthians 13: Not Just for Weddings

In recent years my teaching and writing have taken me back repeatedly to 1 Corinthians 13, which takes a sober look at the impossibly high biblical standard for love.

The love in this passage is applicable to marriage, but Paul is also directly addressing the theological disagreements in the church. The Corinthians were plagued with controversies about worship, social class, and spiritual gifts. All of the things that divided them had theological entailments and implications. And all of their disagreements threatened to expose their loveless hearts.

So the Apostle Paul told them everything that love is—and everything that love isn’t. It is patient and kind. It isn’t rude or irritable. And so forth. 1 Corinthians 13 is a complete portrait of love for Christians caught up in controversy.

Be Loving in Church, in Friendship—and Online

We have our own controversies. And frankly, when we are convinced that we’re right and someone else is wrong, patience and kindness aren’t exactly the areas where most of us excel.

If this is an area of struggle for us, then we would be wise to make 1 Corinthians 13 our constant companion. We should read and reflect on these verses when we think an error needs to be corrected in our local church, when we are tempted to straighten out a friend’s theology, or when we are about to express our opinion in a doctrinal disagreement online.

Our Savior Is Love

As we read and reread 1 Corinthians, we should look for all the ways that it paints a portrait of the Savior whose love is everything that our love is not.

We may not be patient and kind, but Jesus is.

His affections are never irritable or rude, never arrogant or resentful.

This is the love that I need for the people I disagree with, and who disagree with me. In fact, it is the love I need for everyone. Happily, it is also the love that Jesus has promised to give me, as I trust in him.

Philip Ryken is president of Wheaton College and the author of Loving the Way Jesus Loves, a practical exposition of 1 Corinthians 13, which comes with a guide for personal or small group study.