Love = Grace + Truth

After my last few posts about porn and 50 Shades of Grey, I want to talk a little bit about love–because love is essential to both breaking free from porn addictions and for loving others who struggle with these addictions.

What do you love?

In America, I would argue that we love freedom…almost above all else. We want to be free, sometimes to the point that we describe freedom as having no boundaries and answering to no one. That when it comes to our home or our space or our relationships–we are free to express whatever we want because that is our right. We want people to accept this freedom, and sometimes it is from freedom that we view all other things, including love.

But when I talk to these people who want free love, they also want respect. They want other people to respect their views, space, relationships.

In this way, freedom has boundaries…you can be free until it imposes on another person.

Unfortunately, I don’t think we know how to balance these two values well. We fly from freedom to respect. When we are on one side, we attack those on the other.

This is particularly true when it comes to sexuality. Many want to have freedom to express themselves sexually. They want BDSM with their partner. They may want to consume porn. They want to have sex with another person’s spouse. They want to love whomever they want however they want.

In pursuit of freedom, boundaries are blurred and bars are often lowered to accommodate for freedom.

I see a lot of people either lowering bars in an effort to be more loving. Often, they are the same people desiring others to respect their boundaries–often because their boundaries have been crossed many times and they’ve been hurt.

I also see people fly to the other side too. There are so many red lines to cross that you basically have to stand still 100% of the time for fear of crossing too many boundaries. Disrespect is the greatest sin to these people.

My pastor recently spoke on this issue from a slightly different angle: grace and truth.

When trying to figure out what it means to be loving, we turn to Jesus, the ultimate example of love.

When people think of Jesus’ love, I think one of the favorite passages is the one about the adulterous woman:

The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?””….he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” … At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared.

John 8:1-11

We are so excited that Jesus would let this woman go and would even do so in a way that shamed the self-righteous men who were pointing fingers at her. He showed them! And she is free and has been spared from being killed for sleeping with another man. Amazing!

But what about her husband (if she had one) or father (if she didn’t)? How do you think he felt? He may have felt like he got the short end. His wife/daughter has just been let off the hook. She should pay for the hurt she caused him, the shame she brought him.

He may especially be confused because he may have heard Jesus’ sermon a few months prior:

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment….”You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. – Matt 5:27-28

What?! Rather than lower the bar, Jesus told everyone that God expects the highest form of respect–respecting others in our mind and hearts.

This woman clearly went beyond that. She not only broke her vow mentally and emotionally; she went through with the whole act. It makes complete sense for her husband or father to be hurt and upset at her.

This is why the last part of the passage about the woman is crucial to understanding Jesus’ full spectrum of love: “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

Grace always accompanies truth.

My pastor made the point that most people tend to sit in one camp or the other: “Neither do I condemn you”or “go and sin no more.” We have a hard time holding both in our view of love. We allow ourselves to forget that Jesus raised the stakes not lowered them–and that it is because those stakes are so high that His grace is so sweet.

Since you judge others for doing these things, why do you think you can avoid God’s judgment when you do the same things? Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin? – Romans 2:3-4

But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. – Romans 5:8

So what does this mean then? How are we to embrace love when our husbands are addicted to pornography? How are we to reconcile disrespecting our loved ones but having the freedom through Christ to move past it?

I’m sorry; there is no quick or easy answer. Thousands of philosophers and theologians have tried to find it and tend to fall to one or the other side of grace and truth.

But, I do know this. Jesus knew how to hold both grace and truth perfectly as love. Jesus is also described as the Word of God (John 1:1-5, 14). If He is the Word, then reading the Word can help us understand love. Perhaps, by studying him, can we find a way to perfectly love freely and with respect.