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Tuesday, March 07, 2017

People and Ideas

I talk a lot here about ideas. Is God Sovereign? What does marriage actually mean? What does God say is the proper family hierarchy? Isn't it absolutely clear there is "male" and "female"? Lots of ideas. Some are acceptable to my readers; some are not. Some are controversial, others are just "new", and some are "yawn". (I don't think I have ever actually offered something new; just a different slant, perhaps.) Some rouse ire and others rouse a cheer. But they're almost exclusively about ideas ... not people.

There is a sharp difference between an idea and a person. In a debate it is a logical fallacy to attack the person rather than the idea. It's called ad hominem. And it is oh, so common. (Think today's president for a quick and dirty example ... in both directions.) Attacking an idea based on the person that offered it is not reasonable or helpful.

But way beyond that, there is a stark difference between straightforward ideas and their outworking in individuals. Ideas have pretty clear cut issues, pretty easy lines, fairly simple ways of viewing them. Sure, some get tricky and complicated, but, still, all in all they're easy to examine. People, on the other hand, are complex. There are histories and backgrounds, emotions, individual stories, individual circumstances, individual individuals. Take, as a simple example, the idea of weight loss. Non-controversial, right? I mean, it's easy. To lose weight, eat less and exercise more. Done! That is, until you get to people. While, for the largest portion of us, the idea might be true, there are still the few. They are affected by hormones and imbalances, psychological or genetic situations, big or little bones. (Seriously, has anyone ever said, "I'm not skinny; I'm just little boned"?) As it turns out, the idea of weight loss is simple and straightforward, but it is not always helpful to apply the simple idea to all people. Our ideas and how people actually fit into them are not always the same.

It is here, then, that we need to be careful. For instance, the Bible is not unclear that homosexual behavior is a sin. Argue all you want; it won't change the fact. However, that is the idea, not the person. It is the principle, not the outworking. We need to retain that idea, but then we need to interact with the people. Slapping them upside the head with "homosexual behavior is a sin" isn't often the right way to go. We must not ignore the struggles of sinners. After all, we are sinners. People need to be considered. People need to be loved. The Gospel is an idea and the truth, but we must consider how people will best receive it rather than lobbing the idea over the wall.

The phrase is often, "Love the sinner; hate the sin." I don't actually care much for it. But I do differentiate between truthful principles and personal interactions. Telling a believer going through difficult times, "All things work together for good, you know" may be a true statement, but it won't likely help the person. And while we ought to love the truth, we are commanded to love one another. So we mustn't abandon the truth because that wouldn't be loving, but neither should we ignore the individual. Christians are supposed to be marked by their love for one another. Many of us seem to have the "truth statement" down. More of us might need to work on loving sinners who need the truth we have.

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