The Mailbag: Christian Women Working, Using Birth Control, and Limiting Family Size

Originally published July 15, 2019

I have a question [as] to what your convictions are about a woman working at all in the first place, in reference to your answer to the question “Is it ok for a woman to make more than her husband?

What also is your position on birth control or having a planned family size? You are very openly pro life, and amen to that, but it seems you also are supportive of a woman working outside of her home, and with that I can only generalize and forgive me if I am wrong, that you also support a woman limiting her family size because a mother of many children, which is usually the natural order of things when no contraceptives are used, would very difficultly work and also be able to look well to the ways of her household. Can you clear your position up for us wondering? Thank you Michelle! God bless you!

Thank you so much for your questions and kind remarks. These are important issues that women and their husbands need to prayerfully consider in order to arrive at a biblical conclusion for their family.

One thing it’s imperative to remember is that situations differ vastly from family to family. We can easily slip into a pattern of thinking that “every family is just like mine so every family ought to make the same decisions we’ve made,” and even to consider our family’s decisions as the biblical standard for every family. That’s not the case, and that’s not a biblical way of regarding others. It’s important to broaden our view to realize there are scads of family difficulties, logistics, and situations that we’ve never had to face before and that two families can make different decisions on these issues – due to the unique circumstances God has placed them in – and still both be in obedience to God.

The reason it’s possible for two families to make different decisions on these issues is because the Bible doesn’t give any clear cut commands that women should never “work at all in the first place,” or that family size should never be limited, or that no form of birth control should ever be used. We may have strong convictions about these things, but God does not specifically prohibit them in His Word, and that’s what we have to go by, not only when making decisions about our own families, but also when considering the decisions other families have made.

I took a closer look at what God’s Word says (and doesn’t say) about women working in my Mailbag article Stay at Home Dads? I would encourage you to read that article and look up the Scriptures I referenced, but, long story short, the Bible does not make an across the board prohibition that no woman may ever work to earn income. In fact, we see several examples of women in Scripture working, and God does not condemn these women for doing so. In some circumstances, it is perfectly biblical for women to work.

I think the confusion you may be experiencing stems from the fact that you’re assuming several “facts not in evidence” when it comes to women working outside the home. Your questions seem to be predicated on the idea that “working woman” necessarily means a married woman who has small children and who doesn’t want children to get in the way of her career. That may be the case for some women who work but it’s not the case for every woman. Not every woman is married. God has not blessed every woman with children. Some women have children who are grown and on their own. Some women are single mothers and have no choice but to work. Some women have disabled husbands who can’t work. Some women can work part time from home (or outside the home) and their jobs don’t interfere with raising their children and managing their households. Occasionally, when a couple marries, the wife is already well established in a lucrative career, while the husband hasn’t had the same educational/career opportunities, and regardless of how hard he works, and considering all other circumstances, the wife and husband agree that it just makes more financial sense for a particular season of their family’s life for her to work and for the husband to stay home with the kids. We cannot make a blanket statement that godly women in these circumstances, working outside the home (or from home), are necessarily violating Scripture. As I said, we need to be aware of the vast array of circumstances taking place in various families, and not judge those families by our own.

Your next question was about birth control and limiting family size. Again, we must look to Scripture to see what it says.

Since the Bible was written in a time before birth control pills and surgical sterilization were invented, naturally it does not address those specific types of birth control, or, really, any type of birth control. People have tried to make the case that a couple of passages address the issue of what we might call “natural family planning”:

The story of Onan describes Onan engaging in coitus interruptus (withdrawal) and God subsequently putting Him to death. This passage is sometimes offered as evidence that God is against even “natural” birth control. However, all you have to do is read the passage in context, and it’s clear that it wasn’t that particular sexual act itself that cost Onan his life, but his selfishness in refusing to obey what would later become the law of levirate marriage.

1 Corinthians 7:5 permits husbands and wives to engage in mutually agreed upon periods of abstinence which could be stretched like Silly Putty into a biblical endorsement of the rhythm method (natural family planning), but again, the context of the verse makes it clear that the abstinence mentioned in this verse is not for the purposes of birth control, it’s for the purposes of concentrated prayer, sort of a “fasting from sex” idea.

So birth control, even natural forms of it, is not really addressed in Scripture. It’s neither prohibited nor endorsed. And as a consequence, limiting the size of one’s family isn’t addressed either because that wasn’t normally, biologically-speaking, a realistic option.

The Bible does, however, speak to the issue of abortion. Abortion is the murder of an innocent human being, so all the biblical passages prohibiting murder also prohibit abortion. This includes any form of birth control that kills an already conceived baby.

Another biblical principle I think it’s important to take into consideration is that the Bible seems to assume that procreation is one of the main goals of both sex and marriage. While God created sex to be pleasurable, gratifying our desire for physical ecstasy is dessert, not the main course of sex, as our libidinous 21st century sexual ethic would have us believe. God created marriage as the boundary lines for sexual activity, and the foundation for creating families. The Bible knows nothing of a man and woman getting married and proactively deciding for fleshly or selfish reasons (career, travel, freedom, spending habits, etc.) not to have children. The Bible takes for granted that married couples who are physically able will form families by having children. That is His plan for propagating human life.

The Bible also views children as a blessing to families and views motherhood as an honor, a vocation worthy of respect and value. I’m very disturbed at the increasing attitude in our society, and even among some Christians, that children are an annoying inconvenience and a hindrance to women pursuing their own personal goals. I remember seeing a billboard ad for condoms a few years ago that featured a picture of a screaming toddler emblazoned with the caption, “You should have used X Brand condoms.” Recently I saw a TV commercial for an IUD that said something along the lines of, “It’s easier to make an appointment with your doctor to get this IUD than to deal with a thee year old.”

And just last night, I saw part of a sitcom in which a stay at home mom comes home from a night out with friends (all career women) and complains to her husband that ever since the kids were born she’s been stuck at home, that her friends are doing exciting things and all she’s doing is raising kids, that she needs to get out of the house and do something. So she decides to get a job. As if being a mother is an unexciting burden and she’s not really doing anything worthwhile.

Children are a precious gift of God and deserve to be treated with love and dignity, to feel like they’re wanted and valued by the person they love most in the world – Mom.

So taking all of these things into consideration, where does that leave us when it comes to making godly decisions about these three issues of women working, birth control, and limiting the size of one’s family?

Here are some biblical conclusions we can draw:

•Christians should not have abortions or use any type of abortifacient birth control. Barrier methods, true contraceptives (birth control that prevents conception), surgical sterilization (tubal ligation/vasectomy), and natural family planning are not sinful in and of themselves, but we need to prayerfully consider whether or not we have sinful or selfish reasons for wanting to use them.

•As with any decision, Christians should examine their motives for wanting to use birth control, limit their family size, and for wanting Mom to work outside the home. Are these motives sinful, fleshly, selfish, based on a lack of trust in God? If so, that’s the root issue that needs to be dealt with, because Christians should have biblical and godly motives for their decisions, not sinful ones. Godly decisions spring from godly motives.

•Generally speaking, in families with children at home, God’s pattern is for Mom to stay home, manage the household and raise the children, and for Dad to support the family financially. For many couples today, that will necessitate limiting the size of their family at least to a degree. The Duggars might be able to support 20 children on Jim Bob’s salary alone, but that is not the case for most families. Most couples will, at some point, have to make a decision as to whether or not they are physically and financially able to care for additional children, or if having additional children will force Mom to get a job, leaving a day care or someone else to raise the children.

•Because God’s general pattern for families is for Mom to stay home and Dad to work, husbands and wives should try to follow this pattern if at all possible. Explore all possibilities of reducing expenses, bringing in extra income, and keeping Mom at home:

  • Cut your expenses- Move to a cheaper area or into cheaper, possibly smaller, housing. Get a cheaper vehicle. Cut extraneous expenses like cable, going out to eat, recreational shopping, buying name brands, mani-pedis, gym memberships, organizations that require dues, lawn and housekeeping services, etc.
  • Think outside the box when it comes to employment. Bringing in income doesn’t have to mean working outside the home 9 to 5 as someone else’s employee. What about working online or starting your own business? Creating/crafting things and selling them online? Taking in laundry, ironing, or sewing? Babysitting? Homeschooling other people’s children? Working a late night or early morning shift while the kids are sleeping?
  • I highly recommend the late Larry Burkett’s book Women Leaving the Workplace: How to Make the Transition from Work to Home. It came out in 1995, before the internet was really a thing, so it doesn’t have much information on working online, websites you can go to, etc., but most of the practical advice he gives is timeless, and it’s easy to think of online alternatives to some of the “analog” things he mentions.

•Christian wives need to remember to obey Scripture’s instruction to submit to their husbands. If your husband does not want you to work outside the home or has made another decision (that does not violate clear Scripture) about one of these three issues, you are to lovingly and graciously submit to that decision. Remember, there isn’t an explicit biblical command (outside of the prohibition of abortifacients) one way or the other about any of these three issues, but there is an explicit command that you’re to submit to your husband.

•Pray. Making wise and godly decisions about things that aren’t prohibited or endorsed by Scripture can be tough, but this is one of the ways God grows us in dependence on Him. Ask Him for guidance and wisdom. He delights to answer such prayers.

•Get counsel. Set up an appointment with your pastor for counseling or contact a biblical counselor. It can be very helpful to get objective biblical advice when you’re working through these issues.

In some seasons of life and family circumstances it can be perfectly biblical for a woman to work, as long as her home and family remain her first priority and do not suffer because of her working. Abortifacients should never be used by Christians, and Christians should carefully and prayerfully consider whether or not they have godly motives for wanting to limit their family size or use non-abortifacient types of birth control. Christian couples need to make certain they aren’t violating any explicit commands of Scripture, seek to align themselves with biblical principles, and prayerfully make the wisest and most godly decisions for their families that they can about each of these issues.

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.


The Mailbag: Is It OK for Christian Women to Wear Bikinis?

It’s that time of year again, ladies. :0)

If this is a topic of interest to you, be sure you’re
subscribed to my podcast, A Word Fitly Spoken.
Amy and I will be recording an episode on modesty soon.

Originally published February 27, 2017

Summer is just around the corner, so a lot of women will soon be shopping for swimwear. With regard to modesty- do you think it’s OK for Christian women to wear bikinis?

I’m trying to remember back to the days when I might have actually considered – without doubling over in laughter – wearing a bikini. It was a really long time ago. Young, svelte sisters, if I may bring you a bit of comfort- you won’t have to grapple with this question for the rest of your life. As your other older sisters and I can attest, one day, age-appropriateness, your figure, sun exposure, and the desire not to frighten people will make this decision for you long before you have to consider modesty as part of the equation. It’s one of the blessings of getting older.

Just to make sure we’re all on the same page here, let’s quickly define our terms. When I say “bikini,” I’m talking about the fabric equivalent of a bra and panties, not swimwear that covers a lot more yet comes in two pieces.

     bikini                                         not bikinis

Generally speaking, I don’t think bikinis are wise in public unless you’re wearing a shirt or some kind of cover up over it. I’m reluctant to make a hard and fast law about it, though, because, as I’m sure you’re aware, the Bible doesn’t say “Thou shalt not wear a bikini.” (My husband would like to chime in here and says, “However, if you and your husband have a private place for just the two of you to swim or sunbathe, go for it!” You’re welcome, guys.)

As with various other issues, the Bible gives us a general principle (in this case about dressing modestly) and we work out our own salvation in our own cultural context according to all pertinent biblical principles and our own consciences. A law is a fast and easy “yes” or “no” answer to our question- which is often what our flesh wants, because our flesh is lazy. But what God wants Christians to do is study His word about the issue, pray, and ask Him for wisdom to make a godly decision. When we work through this process, it helps us to develop a greater desire to be conformed to the image of Christ and to be obedient to Him. Let’s take a look at just one passage of Scripture that could be helpful in this regard:

3Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Philippians 2:3-8 

So, at first glance, you might wonder, “What in the world does this passage have to do with wearing a bikini?” It doesn’t have anything to do with the bikini itself, it zeros in on your heart (Why do you want to wear a bikini?) and your sanctification (Will wearing a bikini make me more Christlike?).

Verse 3a:
Examine your heart- could your motive for wearing a bikini be classified as selfish ambition or vain conceit? Is it possible you want to show your body off to men to appear desirable, or to women to make them jealous?

Verse 3b-4:
Is this a situation in which you should humble yourself and put the interests of those men who might be tempted to lust or those women who might be tempted to covet ahead of your own desire to appear attractive?

Verse 5:
Do you truly desire to have the same mindset as Christ- about this issue and all others?

Verse 6-8:
How did Jesus approach life, according to these verses? He set aside His own rights and privileges (6), He took on the role of a servant (7), He humbled Himself and was obedient to the point of death (8).

When it comes to wearing a bikini, are you willing to have the same mindset as Christ? To set aside your own rights and privileges, be a servant to others, humble yourself, and obey Christ even to the point of death?

These are not questions God wants me to answer for you. These are questions He wants you to come to Him and answer, because He wants your heart. And He wants you to examine your heart and see if it belongs to Him in this area.

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.


The Mailbag: Salvation and the Mentally Challenged

I have a question about people who have “simple minds”. Those who have a lack of comprehension or are slow thinkers. My son is trying to understand salvation but he is slower in thinking than others. He has learning disabilities that keep him a few years behind others his age. I’m learning to not fear and to trust Christ with his salvation but I’m wondering how I can know he is saved or what God’s word says of those with simple minds.

I think you’ve answered your own question with some very godly wisdom: don’t fear, and trust Christ with your son’s salvation. Don’t discount that wisdom God has given you, because, ultimately, that is your answer. Once we’ve shared the gospel, that’s really all any of us can do regarding the spiritual state of any friend or loved one regardless of mental capacity: Fear not. Trust Christ.

How can you know he’s saved with 100% certainty? You can’t. Just like none of us can know that another person is saved, because we can’t see that person’s heart. The only person I can know is saved, without a shadow of a doubt, is me.

If you’re married, have you and your husband discussed all of this thoroughly? If he is a Believer, he probably has some helpful insights and perspectives to offer. And, do remember, he is the spiritual leader of your home.

I would encourage you (and your husband, if you’re married) to set up an appointment with your pastor – with or without your son, depending on what your pastor suggests – to talk things out and get his wise counsel on the best ways to keep the gospel in front of your son’s eyes.

In the meantime, keep praying for – and with – your son (and that God will help you entrust your son to Him), keep teaching him the Bible, and keep taking him to church. Remember, you are only responsible for pouring the gospel into your son. It’s God’s responsibility to take what you’ve shared and do something with it in your son’s heart.

The Bible doesn’t, as far as I can recall, speak specifically to the cognitive capacity for faith of people who have “simple minds”. Some readers have probably already called to mind the childlike faith passages in the gospels, but Jesus was speaking to the quality of our faith in these passages, not to childlike cognition.

But do keep your mind on Scripture. When you’re tempted to worry, remember who God is. Remember His nature and character:

This is a God who doesn’t even take pleasure in the death of the wicked. A God who patiently bore with Israel’s sin and idolatry for centuries before executing judgment on them. A God who loved sinners so much that He sacrificed His only Son for us while we were still His enemies. A God who describes Himself as being rich in mercy. A God we see throughout Scripture caring for “the least of these” – Hagar, Mephibosheth, Bartimaeus, widows and orphans, the blind, the deaf, the crippled, the leper, the outcast.

Is this a God who would flippantly or casually damn your son to an eternity in Hell based solely on his cognitive disabilities? Does that seem to be in keeping with His nature and character?

Also remember God as Creator. God specially crafted your son the way he is in His image and for His glory just like everyone else He created. Your son’s disabilities are not a mistake or an oversight on God’s part. They are meant to bring glory to Him. Neither you nor he may fully understand how on this side of Heaven, but God does, and that’s all that matters.

And as the One who designed your son’s mind, there is no one who understands how it works, how it comprehends things, better than God does. The Holy Spirit knows how to take that gospel you’ve imparted to your son and explain it to his heart and mind in the absolute best way for your son. A way that’s specially designed uniquely for him by his Creator. Consider these passages as you think about that:

For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.
Psalm 139:13-16

As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
For he knows our frame;
he remembers that we are dust.
Psalm 103:13-14

But Moses said to the Lord, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” Then the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.”
Exodus 4:10-12

Finally remember that God knows your son’s heart and as the just judge of all the universe – Whom we’ve already established is rich in mercy – the only decision God can make regarding your son’s salvation and eternity is the right decision, whatever that might be. God knows the capabilities of your son’s heart and mind better than anyone. He knows whether your son is believing on Christ in his heart or rebelliously rejecting Christ in his heart.

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

I the Lord search the heart
and test the mind,
to give every man according to his ways,
according to the fruit of his deeds.
Jeremiah 17:10

Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!
Psalm 139:23-24

As moms, we often desperately want to find a way to make the “decision” for our children to place their faith in Christ for salvation because we love them and we know that’s what’s best for them. But we can’t. I can’t do it for my child any more than you can do it for your child, disability or no disability. That is between your child and Christ only.

And that brings us full circle to the answer God has already given you:

Don’t fear. Trust Christ with your son’s salvation

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.


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.