It was the name of Rob Bell’s poorly conceived book about hell and future judgment, and it was the content of President Obama’s tweet after the Supreme Court ruled to redefined marriage.
Understood rightly, it is gloriously true.
Love won on the cross, when God sent His Son to die for the sins of the world, repaying our evil deeds with the supreme act of sacrificial love.
Love wins every hour of every day, as that same divine love breaks hard hearts and melts cold hearts and transforms the worst of sinners into the best of saints.
Love will win in the end, as forever and ever, the Father’s family will enjoy His incredible goodness in a world without sin and suffering.
But love also warns. In fact, love that does not warn is not love at all.
The parent who doesn’t warn a chain-smoking child about the dangers of nicotine is not a loving parent.
The doctor who doesn’t warn a morbidly obese patient about the dangers of overeating is not a loving doctor.
The preacher who doesn’t warn his straying flock about the dangers of spiritual compromise is not a loving pastor.
Love warns, and it warns loudly and clearly – but that does not mean harshly or with an angry, self-righteous spirit.
Love warns with tears.
Love warns with brokenness.
Love warns with longsuffering.
That’s why Jesus wept in public as He warned Jerusalem about the terrible judgment that was at the door (Luke 19:41-45).
That’s why Jeremiah wept in secret when the nation refused to hear his warnings of impending disaster (Jeremiah 13:17).
That’s why Paul said to the elders of Ephesus, “I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears” (Acts 20:29-31).
When is the last time we warned someone with tears? When is the last time we cared enough to weep for them in private?
May God break our hearts with the things that break His heart. May the Lord shatter our indifference.
In the words of the Book of Proverbs, “Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy. . . . Whoever rebukes a man will afterward find more favor than he who flatters with his tongue” (Proverbs 27:5-6; 28:23).
We are not called to tickle people’s ears and make them feel good. We are called to speak the truth in love, to have hearts of compassion and backbones of steel, to emulate the true prophets not the false prophets, to do the right thing rather than the convenient thing.
Oh that God would deliver us from a crippling, compromising, man-pleasing mentality!
In your life or ministry, do you really want to be surrounded by a bunch of Yes-men who tell you what you want to hear rather than what you need to hear? Do you really want to work with a bunch of carnal prophets who say, “All is well, all is well,” when nothing is well? (See Jeremiah 6:14.) Then do the same for others and save them from disaster and self-destruction by warning them when they are on the wrong path.
Paul’s final exhortation to Timothy rings as true today – if not even more true – than the day it was written: “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Timothy 4:2-4).
As Richard Baxter said many years ago, “If their houses were on fire, thou wouldst run and help them; and wilt thou not help them when their souls are almost at the fire of hell?”
That’s why the saintly Robert Murray M’Cheyne exclaimed, “Oh! If we had more love to you, we would tell you more about hell. They do not love you who do not warn you, poor hell-deserving sinners. Oh! Remember that love warns.”
It is true that love is patient and kind and is not irritable or rude (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).
It is true that love does no harm to its neighbor (Romans 13:10).
And it is true that, rightly understood, love wins.
But love wins because love warns, and if we walk in true love for God and our neighbor, we will warn.