The Mailbag: Your Article Was Unloving!

This article crosses a line…it’s bashing…mean-hearted…We shouldn’t be looking to twist a knife or bask in “I warned you” glory…so settled in our sense of rightness that we can’t grieve for those who are struggling.

…reading that [we should pray for Beth Moore’s salvation] after all the condescension comes off as more of a southern “bless her heart”.

…this article comes across as sanctimonious with zero grace. It complete [sic] discounts the power of God to transform the most wayward heart….ostracizing and belittling those leaders who fall…I felt a lot of smugness in the article…lack of grace and love…[coming] from a place of superiority…[being] gleeful when sin comes to light…take on the role of judge and executioner…

Michelle: So it’s OK for you to bash me, but it’s not OK for me to “bash” Beth?

I’m not bashing you.

Whenever I post an article about Beth Moore or another false teacher, I invariably get comments like this on social media, the gist of which is that I’m being unloving for saying that she is a false teacher, for rebuking her sin, for recommending that Christian women not receive teaching from her, for my “tone” of using stark language, and so on. (I always find it ironic that the commenter is usually bashing me even as she’s accusing me of “bashing” the false teacher.)

Such was the case last Friday when I posted my article Bye-Bye Beth: What Beth Moore’s Split with the SBC Means. I’ve posted excerpts above from several comments about the article made by one woman – not to single her out, but because her accusations and phraseology typify so well the pushback I often receive from those of the “You’re being unloving” persuasion. There were a few other women who responded in the same vein on the same Facebook post(s), so this lady – who, I must say, was much more polite and articulate in expressing her thoughts than most usually are – was not alone in her viewpoint.

I have not excerpted this lady’s comments in order to take them out of context or misrepresent her, but because her comments were far too many and too lengthy to post in full. Assuming they have not been deleted, If you would like to read her comments (and those of the other dissenting women) in full to make sure I’m presenting an accurate picture of the thrust of their sentiments, I would encourage you to do so here, here, and here. (Please do not address these women any further. They have spoken their minds in full, and they have been addressed sufficiently. There is no need to pile on.)

So to those who would accuse me of being unloving or hateful, who shame me that “Jesus would never talk to people that way,” who think my wording is too harsh, unkind, not gentle enough, etc., here’s my answer…

Whose definition of “loving” are we using here?

You’re defining “love” as my saying something in a way that you’re comfortable with and doesn’t offend your sensibilities.

That’s not how the Bible defines it. And that’s why Jesus was able to speak to the Pharisees…

…woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces…you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves. Woe to you, blind guides!…You blind fools!…You blind men!…full of greed and self-indulgence…you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness…you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness…you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?..on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar.

Matthew 23

…and God was able to speak about His idolatrous people…

And the Babylonians came to her into the bed of love, and they defiled her with their whoring lust. And after she was defiled by them, she turned from them in disgust. When she carried on her whoring so openly and flaunted her nakedness, I turned in disgust from her, as I had turned in disgust from her sister. Yet she increased her whoring, remembering the days of her youth, when she played the whore in the land of Egypt and lusted after her lovers there, whose members were like those of donkeys, and whose issue was like that of horses. Thus you longed for the lewdness of your youth, when the Egyptians handled your bosom and pressed your young breasts.”

Ezekiel 23:17-21

…so much more harshly and starkly than I’ve spoken about Beth in this article, and yet He is still the perfect embodiment of love, and the perfect example of love to us.

Using your definition of love, if you’re going to be fair and consistent, if you accuse me of speaking in an unloving way in this article, you have to accuse God of speaking in an unloving way in Ezekiel 23 and Jesus of speaking in an unloving way in Matthew 23.

But the Bible defines love like this:

God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 1 John 4:8b-11

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

Because God is love, God alone has the right to define love. And God defines love as the redemption, restoration, and reconciliation of man to Himself. Love isn’t someone making you feel good about yourself or the world or your circumstances. Love isn’t being outwardly “nice”: always being the epitome of sweetness, never confronting anyone, affirming everything, never hurting anyone’s feelings, never saying or doing anything that makes anyone uncomfortable.

Because God is love, God alone has the right to define love. And God defines love as the redemption, restoration, and reconciliation of man to Himself.

While the world looks at a person’s outward, observable behavior and pronounces her loving or unloving depending on how pleasing that behavior is to others, God looks at a person’s heart and pronounces her loving or unloving to the extent that her motives match His.

…the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.

1 Samuel 16:7b

God defines love as cooperating with Him in rescuing the perishing, building up the church, and showcasing His glory. Sometimes that’s going to look like binding up the brokenhearted or healing the untouchable leper, and sometimes that’s going to look clearing the temple or calling false teachers a brood of vipers. While the world would call the former “loving” and the latter “hateful” based on what those behaviors look like, God calls both loving if they spring from a heart motivated to rescue, redeem, restore, and reconcile.

So, when you say I’m being “unloving” to use stringent language about false teachers (like God, Jesus, the prophets, and the apostles did), and I say you’re wrong, it’s because we’re using two different definitions of love. You’re using a worldly definition of love based on how pleasing my outward behavior was. I’m using God’s definition of love that’s based on the motivation of my heart. You cannot tell me I’m not demonstrating biblical love in a situation like this because you don’t know the motivation of my heart. I do. The article in question (like so many others about which I’m accused of being unloving) was motivated by love – God’s definition of love – for

  • Beth – that God would graciously remove the scales from her eyes and save her
  • Beth’s fans – that God would open their eyes to deception they’re believing and lead them to repentance and sound doctrine
  • Discerning Christians – that they might be encouraged not to let their guard down but to keep contending for the faith once for all delivered to saints
  • The church – that it would cleanse out the leaven of false teaching so that Christ might present her to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
  • and the Southern Baptist Convention – that it might forsake the idols of money, power, and celebrity, and return to its first love, Christ.

But it was also motivated by another component of love which the worldly definition of love, being worldly, is completely oblivious to. You see, the world’s definition of love only concerns itself with the “horizontal” love between one human being and another. But God’s definition of love finds its origin in Himself. He is the foundation and the culmination of love. He is both the starting gun and the finish line in the race of love. Where there is no vertical love of God, there is no horizontal love between people. There may be friendship, attraction, affection, attachment, and emotion, but there is no true love.

And so any biblical – rather than worldly – definition of love must start and finish with love for God. Only a heart that loves Him because He first loved me can extend that same redemptive, restorative love to others.

And though I have never, and will never, this side of Glory, love Him as completely and perfectly as I should – as I want to – those articles that offend your sensibilities, that you feel justified in berating me about because they don’t meet your standards, those articles are rooted in and motivated by love for the Christ whom I serve. I would not continue to do what I do and take the abuse I take for it if I did not love Him.

I’ve heard this whole “tone police” perspective a million times. I’ve prayed about it. I’ve considered it. I’ve weighed the motivations of my heart. And in cases in which I know before the Lord that my motives have truly been unloving, I’ve repented. But the astronomically overwhelming majority of accusations I receive are not from people concerned with the biblical definition of love, but from people using a worldly definition of love whose personal sensibilities have been offended. People who wish to correct me from the authority and standard of their feelings, not from the authority and standard of God’s Word.

And as I’ve prayed, and studied, and weighed, and considered all of these things, the conclusion the Lord has graciously led me to is that there’s no way I will ever please every single one of the thousands of people who hear me. Just like Jesus’ words didn’t please all the people who heard Him, or John the Baptist’s words, or Peter’s, or Paul’s, or Noah’s, or Ezekiel’s, or Jeremiah’s, or… (you know, I’m starting to think I’m in good company!)

So rather than trying to please man, I’m going to strive to please God. If my conscience is clear before Him, that’s all that matters.

The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe. Proverbs 29:25

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. Galatians 1:10

Additional Resource:

Discernment: What’s Love Got to Do with It?

Sacrificing Truth on the Altar of Tone

If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.