Vol. 9, No. 3
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First John 4:7 says, "Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God." It is possible that some of the most liberal or radical commentators would use this passage to try to prove that homosexuals are acceptable with God, for they apparently love each other, but we have not seen that yet. It is practically impossible to conceive of an honest, sincere student of God's Word who thinks this means that everyone who loves his wife or children, his friends, or the world is thereby made a child of God or proven to be one. The only other sensible alternative of which we can think is that he means that everyone who has the kind of love of which he is talking--the kind of love that causes a man to put God first and keep his commandments and loves the brotherhood with a sacrificial love (agape) is a child of God, for no one does that who is not a child of God. He is talking to and about children of God, not just anyone who loves anything or anybody.
Are you liberal, conservative or in the middle of the road? Since none of these terms are in the Bible in the sense we are talking about, it depends on whose definition you use as to what you call yourself, or are classified by others. It would probably be amusing if it were not so confusing to realize that although I consider myself conservative, I am considered liberal by many. It long ago ceased to bother me very much, for Paul warned that we are not to measure ourselves by ourselves or compare ourselves with ourselves (2 Corinthians 10:12). The only standard that we need is God's Word.
We suppose that some who say they are neither liberal nor conservative, but in the middle of the road mean that they do not want to bind where God did not bind, or loose where God did not loose. However, "middle of the road" to others may mean that they feel that they can appeal to or appease both parties by compromising some things. They may find that they become like the soldier in the War Between the States who wore a Confederate coat and Union pants. The Union soldiers shot him in the torso, and the Confederates shot him in the pants, so he lost in any case.
It is true that we can compromise in almost any area that involves merely an expediency. If enough persons want to have the "midweek" service on Tuesday or Thursday, or not at all, we may be able to satisfy their needs. We would personally question a person who did not want to have the service at all, but know that a very large number who consider themselves faithful Christians have already dispensed with the midweek service, and are still in full fellowship with both "liberal" and "conservative" congregations. There are thousands of "anti-Sunday school" people who attend "main-line" congregations, whatever they are. The rest of the brethren who believe in and maintain Sunday Bible study do not disfellowship them.
Labels may be useful in some conversations if both parties in the conversation understand the thing to which the label refers, but they are exceedingly dangerous in many circumstances, because it is customary for many to react to the label as if it were the thing itself. The supercilious, self-righteous Pharisee in Luke 7:39 who said, "She is a sinner" was doing what many of us usually do. He did not realize that she could just as properly be classified in many other ways, but reacted to his label as if it identified her. A penitent sinner is not the same as an impenitent one. A forgiven sinner is no longer properly classified as a sinner. In the Bible, a person who is called "a sinner" is not one who inadvertently or accidentally sins, but one who deliberately and persistently sins. A tomato farmer is not a person who allows a tomato vine to grow in his compost pile from some garbage that was buried there, but one who deliberately grows tomatoes.
How many men have seen a woman in the car ahead of them put her hand out of the window and wave it in some fashion, perhaps to get rid of cigarette ash, or to signal a turn, either to the right or left, and responded, "Just like a woman driver?" There may be a million women drivers, each different, but the tendency to label and classify as if they were all the same is a common, dangerous and insidious thing.
The same principle is true with regard to any label we may give a person. I would rather not be classified as an "anti" because it is a label with bad connotations. However, I confess that I am "anti" everything that I consider false doctrine, or what we commonly call unscriptural. We might get technical and say that "unscriptural" simply means that it is not mentioned in Scripture, such as church buildings, baptisteries, electric lights, etc. Anti-scriptural would refer to doctrines or practices that were against those things authorized or approved in the Scriptures.
I consider myself conservative in my teaching and practice, for I would rather be safe and leave undone things that I think tend, lean or point in the wrong direction, even if I cannot prove them to be anti-scriptural. It is my opinion that most congregations are placing too much emphasis on "fun and games" both for youth and adults. It is my opinion that when a congregation spends more than a quarter of a million dollars on a "family life center" or "fellowship hall" that is to be used mostly for fleshly pleasures with little spiritual value, the focus is on the wrong things. However, I am "liberal" enough that I do not disfellowship such a congregation. I am conservative enough that I teach that it is safer to use the KJV or ASV or ESV in our public teaching, but I am "liberal" enough that I do not advocate that any person who reads from the NIV is a false teacher and should be disfellowshipped. His wisdom, knowledge and attitude may be questioned if he does not recognize the limitations and dangers of that translation or version, but merely being ignorant is not proper grounds for disfellowship.