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To Be Holy? Or To Love?

What's a poor sinner (like me) to do?

What’s a poor sinner (like me) to do?

I had a typical conversation with a good friend not too long ago on a cold Tuesday afternoon in Wisconsin. We were belly-aching about church, crazy things Christians do, the times we live in, and a host of random topics you routinely hear when Christians get together.

At one point, my friend asked me, “Steve, why is it you’re always yapping about love—‘The church needs to love more’ and ‘All we need to do is love better?’ Don’t you know that God is just as concerned that we live a life of holiness, too? Isn’t the church commanded to be salt and light? We need to be promoting righteousness, not just sentimental feelings. Christians can’t just go about ‘loving’ everyone and turn a blind eye to all the wickedness of our times. We need to balance love with holy living.”

Wow. I really didn’t have a good response. My first reaction was to defend my position, but I stopped from doing so. Right away, I began to doubt my assertion.

Maybe I have been off-kilter. Maybe I had overemphasized one Christian virtue to such a degree as to stretch and tear the whole cloth of the Christian faith.

Yes, we are to be salt and light. Yes, we should mourn over sin and injustice. Yes, we must be about promoting righteous living. But when is it most appropriate that we love? We are commanded to do that, right? But when, then, is it best to focus on holiness?

Taking Socrates’ Lead

Not long after, maybe a week or so later, I sat down one pre-dawn Saturday morning, trusted mug of coffee in hand, and tried to sort through my confusion. And, in deference to Socrates, I began my analysis by defining terms.

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