My friend Molly has had some interesting posts and comments on her blog lately. The other day, she provoked me to think some more about doctrine and love.
I’ve had some rambling thoughts about this for a while now. My husband and I even talked some about this with Ross from NTM Australia when we had dinner with him back in August.
A lot of local churches (or even large denominations) that have a solid understanding of basic doctrine — a truly biblical understanding of basic truths — have done a pretty lousy job of truly loving and serving people. As a reaction to that, there is a vast movement in American Christianity to focus on loving and serving and sort of ignore doctrine. There is this notion among many that doctrine doesn’t matter and isn’t as important as loving and serving. I think this is completely understandable. For a long time now, Christians haven’t truly loved people and haven’t truly served anyone outside their own church. For a long time now, local churches have spent all their time and money developing programs for themselves, for those within, and haven’t done much to reach out and serve those who don’t yet know Jesus. So I can understand why some Christians, especially those who were outside and ignored and under-served for all those years, are suddenly seeing all these opportunities to show Christ’s love and are getting excited about truly ministering to those outside the church.
But loving and serving and giving and going without solid doctrine is rather empty. It’s just as empty as all the solid doctrine without any love.
2 Tim. 3:16 says “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” One of the reasons the Holy Spirit inspired the BIble is so that we can understand sound doctrine.
Acts 2:42 tells us that the very first Christians “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine” along with their fellowship and prayers and the breaking of bread and the wonders and signs. And thousands and thousands of people were learning about Jesus and becoming His followers.
These first Christians were definitely loving and serving people. They were selling things and sharing things and living together and taking care of each other. None of them enjoyed an abundance while a fellow believer suffered in need. This kind of love and care and putting others first undoubtedly overflowed into the way they treated people who were not believers as well. Their love and kindness was a striking contradiction to the society around them. Yet while their love was so evident, the Holy Spirit in Acts 2 makes a point of telling us that they were continuing steadfastly in doctrine.
They didn’t toss out doctrine to focus on love. And we can’t either.
Those first Christians had a sweet balance of doctrine and love. The Church today needs to find that same balance. It seems to me that many of the local churches that are very solid on biblical doctrine do a bad job of loving people outside their body. And a lot of the churches that do a great job of loving those outside the body don’t teach solid doctrine. It’s like we’ve lost the ability to multi-task or multi-focus; instead, we hyper-focus on one issue.
I just want to take myself and every other Christian by the shoulders and give a shake and say, “Come on, we can do better than this! We have the power of the Holy Spirit inside us. Certainly we can focus on both doctrine and love.”