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.