I picked up my copy of The Journals of Jim Elliot, which I’ve been reading in bits here or there for a couple of years, and one entry struck a chord:
Ephesus was intolerant of evil men. The church could not bear the evil workers who sought to settle among them. But that mere intolerance of evil did not make Ephesus what Christ wanted her to be. Intolerance of evil is, or can be, a negative attitude, and if it lacks the moral backing of positive love for God, it will quickly degenerate into bigotry and narrowness. This is for me, for though I pretend zealously to have hatred for wickedness, often it is not from a knowledge of and love for righteousness, but from mere external, social, and environmental feelings. (March 18, 1950)
Wow. I struggle with being an “Elder Brother”, the brother who stays at home (does the “right” thing) while his younger brother goes off wild and crazy, squandering the family’s inheritance in the story of the Prodigal Son. He thinks he’s entitled to more than his brother because he’s always towed the line. But what was his motivation for that? Out of love for his father… or so he could throw it back in his brother’s face, or feel entitled to praise and all that comes with it? I confess I can be quick to speak truth, but in what way? Where does the truth stem from? I do think intolerance of evil can be done righteously. This is not a call for compromising truth and God’s best for the sake of tolerance. Definitely not. But…
I can only speak truth in love and grace, from a place of love and grace, recognizing my own need for love and grace, and that my Source of love and grace is the Lord and Him alone. It’s not about what I’ve done, or even the Younger Brother. I’m as much a sinner as the next person. I need to rehearse the Gospel to myself daily. This is for me, too.