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Across the Pastor’s Desk: To be conservative or liberal?

Across the Pastor’s Desk by Kent Otterman

Should a Christian be conservative or liberal?  In my opinion, Christians should be both conservative and liberal depending on the area one is talking about. I believe believers should be conservative in the area of truth and liberal in the area of love.

Kent Otterman

In the area of truth the Bible is our standard, at least if you believe that the Bible is God’s Word as it claims to be and as the church has always believed it to be. If the Bible is God’s Word then we cannot pick and choose what we like and what we don’t like. Franklin Graham recently wrote some helpful comments about Biblical truth. He wrote, “The Scripture is God’s revelation to man, and it stands as the absolute, unrivaled authority over every domain of life. ‘All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness’ (II Timothy 3:16). When the Bible speaks about gender, it says ‘He created them male and female’ (Genesis 5:2). When the Bible speaks about marriage, it says that ‘a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife’ (Genesis 2:24). When the Bible speaks about abortion, it says that in the womb, ‘Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed’ (Psalm 139:16). When the Bible speaks about sexual morality, it says, ‘For this is the will of God … that you should abstain from sexual immorality’ (I Thessalonians 4:3).  When the Bible speaks about creation, it says, ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth’ (Genesis 1:1).”  As believers we submit to God’s truth rather than trying to make God’s truth submit to us and the ever-changing winds of our culture. Often those of a liberal persuasion in these areas accuse conservatives of being hateful, but that is almost never the case.  It is simply a matter of what a person’s source of truth is.

But Scripture teaches that Christians should be liberal in the area of love. That is, we are to seek to love everyone, even those who don’t agree with the Bible’s teaching on things. The Bible says that “God so loved the world (that’s everyone!) that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Jesus said, “You have heard that is was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.  He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love only those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your Heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:43-48).  We need to remember that Jesus died on the cross for all people because he loves all people (I John 2:2).

So should Christians be conservative or liberal? I believe the answer is both. We are to be conservative in truth because God’s truth never changes, but liberal in love because all people are loved by God.

Kent Otterman is chaplain of Good Samaritan Society of Albert Lea and pastor of Round Prairie Lutheran Church of rural Glenville and Faith Lutheran Church of London.