Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. (1 John 4:7. ESV.)
I can only imagine what the world would be like if there was no hate. It is quite possible individuals would be able to disagree peacefully, affection would be unconditional, issues of divorce, domestic violence, child abuse, etc. would be minimal or perhaps nearly nonexistent. Boarders and possession of land would be settled without hostility or violent wars. The condition of the earth, its inhabitants, and way of life would (in my opinion) look altogether different. Crime would ultimately be at a low. In short, the population would potentially be more childlike. It is even plausible an absence of hate would affect the amount of drug and alcohol abusers in existence as well.
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3. ESV.)
Can people hold differing opinions and still show love? I believe so. Why not? I reason men, women, and children have the ability (though maybe not the skills) to coexist despite national, cultural, racial, geographical, cosmetic, relational, prophetic, and/or religious differences.
Regardless the gospel says...
God's Grace is Sufficient
But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:9. ESV.)
Be a Kinder...
Abraham Piper wrote a post (I have quoted on this blog before and part of which I have again pasted below) called "Be a Kinder Calvinist". Though some (or even most) may not place themselves in the category of either "Calvinist" nor "Arminian" I feel Piper's message is still applicable in general (dare I say for everyone)...be the most considerate, tolerant Christian, Calvinist, Arminian, Catholic, Hindu, Buddhist, Atheist, Muslim, Pagan, or whatever else one might be, from the heart, in LOVE.
There is a letter on Scot McKnight's blog from a pastor who is very frustrated with certain Calvinists in his church. It would be easy enough to disregard it, pointing out that not all Calvinists are like that or that his use of the word "hyper-Calvinist" doesn't match correct theological jargon. But that would be missing the point. And, ironically, that reaction would only lend credence to the frustration that motivated the letter in the first place.(© Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org)
So how should we read this letter in a way that acknowledges, understands, and respects the discouragement of its author?
First, we should note that it is simply indisputable that some people are exactly the way he describes. When you see mean extremists in another circle, it reminds you why you don't run with that crowd. But when you see mean extremists in your own circle, it's just plain embarrassing. Unfortunately, until we are perfected there will always be mean people of every theological strain. But fortunately, we are a part of the church not merely for the company, but for Christ.
The second way to understand the letter is to see it (along with the numerous comments that follow) as abundant evidence that, to many, Calvinists come across as self-righteous, condescending, arrogant, unfriendly, argumentative, and even stingy. The fact that we're not all that way is irrelevant in the same way that it didn't matter to Molly that I had done three things to show I appreciate her—she still felt unappreciated. Her frustration was true because, whether or not I was grateful to my wife, I was perceived as an ingrate. Similarly, the frustration in the letter is true because, whether or not the Calvinists in the letter-writer's church are good folks, they come off as proud and divisive jerks. Those Calvinists, as church members, and I, as a husband, should change based on this information, regardless of how "inaccurately" the frustration may be worded.
In my marriage, it doesn't matter whether I'm thankful if I don't seem like it. And in the church, it doesn't matter whether we have the fruits of the Spirit if no one can tell.
It won't be easy to change the pejorative stereotype that clings to Calvinism, but we can start by admitting that it is accurate far too often. Then we can make sure we are manifestly not self-righteous, condescending, arrogant, unfriendly, or argumentative. Also, you can count on us to buy dinner or coffee sometimes.
Paying attention to those who disagree with us and taking them seriously, even if we're pretty sure we'll still disagree, is part of what it means to be in the body of Christ. It's humbling; it sanctifies. It will make us better husbands and wives. It will make us better Christians, and maybe even better Calvinists.
The Way of Love
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away....
13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8, 13. ESV.)