There is a great deal of emphasis on love in our society today. Some of the emphasis is good, some not so good. Some is more surface level feel good rhetoric than substantive action. Many are quick to judge someone as being unloving, even hateful, if he does not conform to some superficial standard of their own choosing. Love should be long suffering. To some extent it is subjective. But even Godly love is not without limits. When it comes to teaching the gospel to lost souls, just what does love demand?
Some people might find it difficult to believe that there are limits to God’s love for man, but there are. His love certainly shines far brighter than anything we might exhibit, but it does set some boundaries. And, if God has drawn some lines beyond which even His love cannot extend, then certainly we ourselves cannot go farther than that in the name of our love.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (Jn.3:16). Nothing we can do compares with God sending Jesus to experience all the difficulties of human life, including the devil’s temptations, and then die on the cross as the perfect sacrifice for our sins. But God’s love was not, and still is not, open ended. When Jesus instructed the Apostles to go everywhere teaching His gospel, He drew a line that mankind must cross in order to receive forgiveness and salvation through Him. If a person does not believe in Him and obey His teachings, he will be lost (Mk. 16:15-16)!
God does not owe us salvation. He is not obligated to take us to Heaven in spite of ourselves. Because of our sinfulness we deserve God’s punishment. It is only because of His amazing grace that He offers us the opportunity to be saved, in spite of our guilt. But even God’s grace is not limitless (Gal. 5:4).
So, what does love demand that we do in reaching out to the lost with the gospel of Christ? It demands that we do just that, reach out to the lost with the gospel. Love further demands that our reaching out cannot be careless, limited or just a surface gesture. We must literally go everywhere, all over the world, with the gospel message. We must strive to teach every soul possible about salvation in Christ. It must be a continuing, relentless effort to communicate God’s plan for man in our community and throughout the far reaches of the world. We must strive to leave no stone unturned in proclaiming the gospel. We should try to utilize every effective means and avenue available to communicate the message that Jesus died for.
However, we cannot go beyond the gospel message that Jesus brought. It has not changed since He first communicated it to mankind. We should use every ounce of energy within us to persuade people of their need to obey Jesus. But we cannot change the gospel message for those who do not want to submit to it. It is not our responsibility, nor is it within our power, to save people in spite of their refusal to obey what Jesus said they must do. He said most people will be lost (Matt. 7:13-14). That prophetic knowledge did not make Him happy, nor should it give us any joy. It is, nonetheless, reality. Our love for the lost, and our grief over their condemnation, cannot erase their responsibility to respond to the Savior in obedience. Love demands that we teach, but even love cannot erase one’s responsibility to obey the teachings of Jesus (Heb. 5:9). He died for us out of love. Love for Him will lead us to obey His commandments (Jn. 14:15).
Gary L. Hutchens