How liberalism destroyed real love

I’ve recently found an understated, but real and present yearning for a greater freedom for Christian people to express their love for each other. Our growth group uncovered this week how liberalism has destroyed real love as we considered

Romans 12:10 “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.”

Living in the wake of the the sixties love generation, we’re finding that the shadow cast by free love is longer and darker than we realise. We haven’t seen daylight for so long that we think the way we act today is normal.

But, when the sixties generation rebelled against the stiff and starchy moralism of their parents’ post-war generation, love became inseparable from sex. This has resulted in a society where expressions of brotherly love are confused with sexual advance. In many Christian circles it is no longer seen as appropriate for grown ups to hug each other unless they are married. Men can’t hug men, grown ups can’t hug the under sixteens, despite the suggestion of some politicians that we should hug a hoodie. People are restricted by religious legalism, which seeks to appear above reproach, to cold, formal, arms-length relationships, where the only legitimate place for physical expressions of love is within the nuclear family. Outside the church, when people want to show love it is nearly always confused with sexual advance and so casual sexual encounters are normal and, taken to the extreme, include orgies.

Liberalism has removed God’s law and has written a new set of laws:
1. You must not say “I love you” unless you mean it sexually
2. You must not show physical expressions of love because this will automatically be taken as a sexual advance
3. You must not be alone with someone else at any time; a man, a woman or a child, because it probably means you’re having sex
4. You must keep an invisible barrier between you and everyone else except those you are allowed to have sex with

This is the mad situation which Paul addresses in his letter to the Romans. Liberal Roman society claimed to be wise, but were acting, as modern western liberal society acts, as fools in relation to God and with each other:

Romans 1:22-24 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man (pornography) and birds and animals and reptiles. 24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.

Christians need to be wise, not foolish. It is foolish to let the patterns of the world straight-jacket brotherly love. Keeping the law of God frees Christians to express love for each other in physical ways because there should be no hint of sexual desire as we do.

Romans 13:13-14 Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.

At the end of his letter, Paul encourages Christians to express their brotherly love for each other in the physical intimacy of a kiss but without any hint of sexual desire.

Romans 16:16 Greet one another with a holy kiss.

A kiss might be too much for the reserved Brits, though a hug ought to do.

If the world sees relationships in the church as cold, formal and distant they will never be attracted to Christ, who fulfilled the law and died for us so that we can be free from the penalty of the law and freed to keep the law, without fear of adultery or sexual immorality in our congregations. The law of God frees us to truly love one another.

Romans 13:8-10 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellow man has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” Love does no harm to its neighbour. Therefore love is the fulfilment of the law.

About neilrobbie

I am a 6'6" formerly ginger Scot, in a cross cultural marriage to my lovely Londoner wife. We've lived in SE Asia and since 2005, I have served as an Anglican minister in Wolverhampton and West Bromwich.
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15 Responses to How liberalism destroyed real love

  1. Interesting. It reminded me of a moment in the de Vito/Spacey film, The Big Kahuna where de Vito asks Spacey, “Do you love me?” The characters are men who have worked together for many years in sales, and de Vito’s character is assessing his life. Out of that assessment comes that question. It is a charged moment because of the ambiguity – what kind of love does he mean? That moment of confusion is well played by Spacey, and it reflects the mess the West has got into.

    Thanks for spurring the thought!

  2. neilrobbie says:

    Hi Stephen, welcome to transforminggrace. I see from following the links that we have more than one thing in common, both being pastors in the West Midlands and thinking about the tree of life!

  3. Stephen says:

    Actually, WordPress threw up your blog as a ‘related post’ which is how I got to your blog. I note you have a link to MGP. Have we met there before? I was at the last one in Hinckley in June.

  4. neilrobbie says:

    I’ve not been to an MGP meeting since Ian Fry on kids work, which was in Hinckley a couple of years back.

    I notice that our circles must only just miss as I see that you are on Rosemary Grier’s (étrangère) blog read too. Perhaps we’ll meet in the flesh soon. Lets make a point of saying hello at the next MGP event, whenever that is.

  5. étrangère says:

    Aha, you meet! Neil if you cast your mind back to telling me about the tree of life at the train station (not that the tree of life is at the train station – that would make Wolverhampton the new Jerusalem perhaps?), you may recall I did mention Stephen to you, as a fellow Presby in the West Midlands (in fact, the only one of us being honest about it ;-)) 🙂

  6. neilrobbie says:

    I thought they might be the same person. And you must stop talking about honest Presbyterians, it only increases my guilt and shame. William Philip’s accusations of “traitor” are ringing in my ears, though I think that’s as much to do with leaving Scotland as leaving the Presbyterians.

  7. Stephen says:

    Hmm. Are you a closet presby?! You would not be the only one…

  8. étrangère says:

    Well, reformed Anglican is no more traitorous to Presbyterianism than my independent evangelical. But then again, Anglican being English, on the traitor front…

  9. neilrobbie says:

    Closet presby? Or, as a local Anglo-Catholic priest recently said, the episcopal church is now practically congregationalist. And, I’d need some help to understand the complexities of Presbyterian church government to be able to answer your question.

  10. Stephen says:

    Complex? Ha. I guess we can make complex in practice what is simple in principle.

  11. neilrobbie says:

    My ignorance is exposed! I was brought up the Church of Scotland and coverted in her, but didn’t stay long enough to know how her government works. The Presbyterian system appears complex from where I sit, with presbyteries and moderators and elders and ministers and who knows who running things. [Note to self: read up on Presbyterian church government]. I suspect, like the CofE, Presbyterianism is practically congregationalist today. Is that right?

  12. étrangère says:

    Probably depends on which Presbyterianism. Think congregation has Presbyters elders (of which teaching and ruling elders, some of whom may be full-time employed) but plurality and parity in any case. That’s the Session. Then some of those come together to form the Presbytery – again, all equal including the Moderator (Chair). Means you’ve got accountability and support of elders to each other, and thus congregations to each other, so can have more effective discipline, church-planting and mission strategy, training, mutual support, etc. So it’s like congregationalism, but without the tendency to isolationism and with less pressure on the elders of one congregation, or like Anglican system, but with the hierarchy flattened. Have I described that accurately, Stephen?

  13. Stephen says:

    Yes, pretty much. There are of course shades of presbyterianism. There is the very top-down, centralised Church of Scotland which is a disaster. My own denom tries to be bottom-up where the local session is the “radical court”. However this runs the risk of becoming little more than a loose alliance of churches. I think the IPC is similar.

    BTW, as I understand it a congregational church is not presbyterial, i.e. it is ruled by the congregation not the elders, and it is independent. Some churches are presbyterial to a degree, ruled by elders, but independent e.g. I think City Ev. runs like this.

  14. neilrobbie says:

    This is useful stuff, thank you. I need to spend some time thinking about church government and this has given me a spur to read up.

    By congregationalist, the point being made about the CofE is not to to with who rules the church but more the degree of connection between parishes. Many now see the church as a very loose alliance of individual congregations, with networks of like minded churches under one administrative umbrella.

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