Yesterday I found myself in the middle of some Facebook evangelism.
You know what I mean, right?
I got sucked in to a religious debate via social media. I don’t usually recommend this. Any serious conversation about faith that takes place through a non-face to face (or at least voice to voice) medium means two things are sacrificed: tone of voice and body language. In other words, people can’t sense the love, concern or humility Christians must employ in order to earn the right to speak to an unbeliever about his beliefs.
And so I find social media evangelism to usually be more harmful than productive.
So why did I go against my rule of thumb and engage in a spiritual debate on Facebook yesterday?
Because the Bible was being misquoted.
A friend of mine put as her status “‘Let us love one another because love is God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love’ John 4:7-8”
There are two errors in this quote. Can you spot them?
One error is not that big of a deal to me. The scripture is actually from First John, not the Gospel of John. And if that had been the only problem, I wouldn’t have said anything. Unfortunately, the other error required me to pipe up.
My friend had omitted a preposition. The verse does not read in any translation “love is God.” The KJV and NKJV say “love is of God”. The NIV and NLT read “love comes from God”. The ESV and NASB say “love is from God”.
I pointed this out to my friend, and she did not see the importance of her error. She is not a Christian. She is more new age than anything else. And to her, love IS God, and God IS love, so the phrases are interchangeable. Preposition or no preposition, there is no difference of meaning in her mind.
It is fine for her to think that way. She isn’t a Christian. So why did I get so bent out of shape about it?
Because she advertised that “love is God” is biblical.
And I was not about to let her lead others who don’t know that much about the scripture astray, whether it was an innocent typo or a deliberate omission. Love is God was never taught by Christ. It is true that God is love (1 John 4:8). It is idolatry to say that love is God. See the difference?
When we decide that we will only do that which we deem to be loving, making love our god, we will inevitably make mistakes. We will think we are being loving sometimes, but, in reality, we are not. A lot of times we distort love, mixing in selfishness and manipulation, convincing ourselves that we are loving well even when we know we are not.
We will also find we have conflicting views with others about love – what it is, how to give it, when to give it, what it should look like. To subscribe to the ideology that “love is God” is to subscribe to an ideology that is impossible to live out.
God is love. He created love. Love persists throughout His being. Love motivates Him to act how He acts. But He is much more than love. He is also holy. And just. And righteous. To boil God down to one trait – love – is to miss that He is a person. He has the whole range of emotions. He has relationships with others. He wants a relationship with us.
My daughter, Allie, is cute. So is my other daughter, Lexi. But for simplicity’s sake, let’s stick with Allie. Allie is cute. Is cute Allie? No. Cute is just one of Allie’s many traits. To limit her to cute is to miss that she is a person with a will and emotions and flaws.
Back to Facebook evangelism…
Don’t do it. Unless the Bible is being misquoted. Then you must do it. Because the Bible means everything. It is the basis of our beliefs as Christians. If we let it get distorted, we lose the ability to give a reason for the hope that lies within us (1 Pe. 3:15). And if we lose that ability, all we are are candles in the wind.
Cue Elton John.