The Love of Many Will Grow Cold
I feel it sometimes. Cold, heartless evil. It’s all around. It’s dark and ugly. It’s chill penetrates to the bone. I felt the cold when I heard of the murder of twenty children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School. I feel it when I read about ISIS beheading and crucifying Christians. The darkness draws close with countless other events reported on the nightly news.
We all feel the cold. Most of us will never experience it like the parents of those twenty children killed at Sandy Hook. Nor will we feel it like young children caught in the nefarious web of sex trafficking. But it is palpable nonetheless.
If we aren’t careful, this cold will penetrate our own hearts and disable our love. Perhaps it already has. I am not suggesting we will commit some horrible, evil act. But, as lawlessness increases, we can easily let fear reduce our compassion and acts of kindness to a level that is almost undetectable.
It is prudent to avoid dangerous situations, but our fear might cause us to choose our ministry based on risk level rather than on what God is prompting us to do. We choose something safe. When we do, it may be that our love has already started to grow cold.
When the aids crisis was at its peak, many of us, myself included, were afraid to minister to those afflicted. The thought of being a part of an inner city or prison ministry is terrifying to many Christians. Now, with muslim refugees among us, many will be afraid to reach out to them.
Years ago I sat in the Latin American Missions guest house in San Jose, Costa Rica with ten career missionaries listening to stories and discussing various topics. One man asked this question – who has been robbed at gunpoint in San Jose? I (the sole member of the group who wasn’t a career missionary) and a young missionary who had been in San Jose for just a few months were the only ones in the room who hadn’t. What if these missionaries and thousands like them had let fear of real danger cause their love to grow cold?
What if the apostle Paul, for whom seemingly nowhere was safe (2 Cor. 11:23-33), had let his love grow cold?
I have noticed a recurring theme whenever I feel afraid of the evil that is around me. I have usually forgotten God, his promises and his providential care.
It’s not that evil will never harm us if we are God’s children; the Bible affirms that God allows suffering in our lives. But God and Satan have different goals in suffering. God wants to strengthen our faith. Satan wants to destroy it.
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 5:7-11
Fear and love are incompatible. Perfect love casts out fear. (1 John 4:15) So what gives? How is it that we are fearless one moment, resting in God’s love, and in the next full of dread and worry? Perhaps it is because somehow we equate suffering with a failure of God to keep his part of a bargain we imagine he has made with us.
What is the proper response of the Christian to the evil around us? Yes, we must protect ourselves and loved ones from evil as best we can. Among the wolves we must be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. (Mt. 10:16) But we should not succumb to fearing what evil men do.
Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven. Matthew 10:28-33
What if we simply took Jesus at his word and chose to obey him? What if we stopped worrying about the evil in the world and instead found God’s peace through prayer and by thinking about what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely and commendable (Philippians 4) resisting the devil’s attempts to convince us to do otherwise?
We would lessen the risk of our love growing cold. We would be freer to store up treasure in heaven instead of treasure on earth. We would be freer to love our fellow Christians, spread the gospel, love our enemies, go the extra mile and help the man beaten and robbed lying on the side of the road.
In times of tribulation, there are two kinds of people. There are those whose love grows cold and those who stand firm in their faith. Those who persevere in their faith will be eternally saved. (Mt. 24:12-13) God intends for his elect to persevere. He who began a good work in you will complete it. (Phil. 1:6) Be encouraged by this truth.
As lawlessness and persecution increase and as we see the Day approaching, let us hold fast to our faith and spur one another on toward love and good deeds. (Hebrews 10:23-25)