See Luminosity

My New Year’s Resolution

My New Year’s Resolution

I don’t normally do New Year’s resolutions.

I mean, it already takes me, on a normal day, at least an hour to fall asleep at night due to my daily habit of pondering what I need to do better the next day or the next week or the next…you get the point. I could never narrow down all the things I want to improve in the upcoming year to give it some official title.

This year The Lord narrowed it down for me.

Yes, the Hound of Heaven has been tracking down my heart, putting the same theme before me in a variety of ways. Prayer, scripture, circumstances and the testimony of other Christians have all pointed in the same direction for my focus in 2014, so I’m doing it; I’m making one.

My New Year’s Resolution is to better balance my passion for principles with my love for people. 

Yes, Principles Matter

This isn’t something I came up with. It’s more like something The Lord has chased me with.

I am wired around principles. I don’t know why; I just tend to gravitate toward ideas and truths. My logical mind enjoys lining up facts, building a case, defending a cause. I am constantly pondering the merits of an issue, and wanting to educate myself about all sides in order to be able to uncover, and pass on, the truth of it.

Now don’t get me wrong – principles matter. Truth – objective reality, right and wrong – is a life or death issue that is actively being obscured by postmodern laissez-faire “whatever works for you” enlightenment. Jesus said, “I am the…truth. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6), and that “The truth will set you free” (John 8:32). Contrary to what our culture says, we cannot truly love without getting our principles right:

 

  • “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.” 1 Corinthians 13:6
  • “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” – 1 John 3:18
  • “Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, will be with us in truth and love.” 2 John 1:3
  • “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.” Romans 12:9
  • “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15
  • “My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.” – James 5:19-20

So, yeah. Principles are important. There is Truth, and we need to get it right.

But – and here comes my conviction – principles aren’t, of course, all we’re called to, as Christians.

Balanced by Love

The problem for me is that I am often so focused on the principle that I can forget the person. It’s a sad reality that in my zealousness for pointing out truth and standing for principle, the humanity behind the issues can get lost.  I fight my cause, while inadvertently alienating the very people my fighting is intending to help. And my principle-nearsightedness has grown even worse since Dominic, as, for whatever reason, my passion for the rightness and wrongness of things has managed to intensify.

Not the best, this, considering that there’s this other kind of important element of Christianity called love.

 

  • “What matters is faith working through love.” – Galatians 5:6

Principles matter – but only so far as they are working through love for those to whom the principles apply.

 

  • “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I…can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:1-3
  • “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.” – 1 Peter 1:22
  • “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – John 13:35
  • “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” – John 15:12
  • “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.” – Galatians 5:13
  • “Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Philippians 2:1-4

I don’t want principles to take over. But some combination of genes and experience and grief have led, unwittingly, to my principle-focus getting in the way of my love – and The Lord has been calling me on it.

Improving My Love

I’ve got a lot of “stances” – a lot of causes for which I fight – and I believe The Lord has given them to me. But He has also been reminding me the way my standing on principles must be balanced with an active, personal love for the people those principles affect – and that I tend to be weighted too heavily on the former side of the scale. No, I’m not out there screaming obscenities at abortion clinics, bashing gay people, or making racial slurs. But the Lord is showing me the ways I need to balance my concern for illuminating truth with a love for people.

Hence, my New Year’s Resolution.

Yes, in 2014, I want to put people before principles. And it involves two major areas:

 

  1. Being more aware of the human impact of any public stances or principles I take…speaking the truth in love
  2. Actively serving and ministering to those who are affected by the issues I address

Speaking the Truth in Love

I am not quiet about my beliefs. I’m not quiet about anything, actually, but when it comes to faith intersecting with culture, I can be a bit like a rabid dog. In multiple ways The Lord has brought before me the need to never let the principle be devoid of the person.

 

  • “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” – Ephesians 4:15

We become mature not by knowing or standing up for the truth (or by simply loving without expressing the truth), but by speaking the truth in love.

Publicly standing on principles brings with it a responsibility. And we should, as Christians, publicly stand for Christ’s truth as lights of our world. But being outspoken about issues – and God’s truth about those issues – means an additional obligation to always be aware of the hurting hearts watching and listening to how we approach those issues. It requires a sensitivity to the message those affected by the issue receive, so that even if the message convicts of sin, it simultaneously affirms the worth of the person. It requires a heart continually aware of its own sin, and continually broken for the things that break God’s heart. It also necessitates empathy; a willingness to never let the principle become more important than the person.

The Lord has made it clear that in this I have faltered.

Counseling training to help women considering abortion, sleepless late night heart tuggings, lunch with a gay friend, constant refrains through prayer, Facebook conversations with acquaintances from a completely opposite worldview…just a few of the means Jesus has used to show me the ways my truth/love meter has been unbalanced.

 

  • “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” 1 John 3:18

Connecting personally with people’s pain puts principles to work in the real world.

Serving Individuals

Always remembering that suffering people are listening – speaking the truth in love – that is the first part of my New Year’s goal. The second is, in many ways, even simpler. I feel convicted to do more to serve people in personal, tangible ways.

People do not connect with truth simply as a logical concept; principles become real as they speak to personal experience. The Lord’s truth is not merely abstract but living God-Word understood in relationship with people. While my natural bent is toward public policy, and providing a voice for biblical principles within our culture, that can never be  a substitute for ministering individually.

I feel the Lord’s conviction to increase my personal contact with hurting individuals. And, particularly, to serve those on the opposite side of the principles I espouse. Most directly, He has brought me to volunteer at the Blue Ridge Women’s Center – Roanoke’s pro-life ministry to women experiencing unplanned pregnancies. I am passionately (and loudly) pro-life, and I knew He wanted me to serve the women who are considering terminating their children’s lives. Only Jesus could put me, after losing my own child unwillingly, and desperately desiring more children, in the place to actively love those who might kill theirs. And it has been one of the best choices of my life.

Babies are dying, yes. But so are the souls of their mothers and fathers. And those mothers and fathers are drawn to the Truth not by my brilliant arguments for the humanity of the unborn, but by seeing the Truth lived out through my walking alongside them in love.

Faith without works is dead. Truth without love is dead. It is only by truly knowing, loving, and walking with hurting people that God’s truth can be fully manifested. Jesus wants us to feel the pain, live the experience of the people around us, just as He did. We bring His principles to the world not through brilliant logic or expertly crafted arguments, but through active love of real people. Personal, up-close ministry to struggling individuals is what innoculates us from Pharisaicism…from preaching rather than reaching, from standing in judgment rather than holding hands in solidarity.

It is a vaccine I want.

New in the New Year

Yes, principles matter, and we certainly must have the truth before we can speak the truth in love. But, this year, I want the Lord to shift the balance of my life on the truth-love scale. I pray that my heart will supersede my logic. That my compassion will overtake my theological calls to arms, and my desire to serve and love will overtake my desire to prove a point. That my soul will be reminded first of its own sin and second of its duty, and that grace will take a firmer hold within me than the law.

It is an uphill battle for the Spirit, no doubt. But

 

  • “He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’” Revelation 21:5

Maybe, this New Year – He will start with me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *