Today has been an interesting day. This morning, Westboro Baptist Church paid a visit to the county, this time to a local high school. This high school is near a military fort, and, according to WBC (who you may remember from soldier funeral protests & the godhates_____.com), purports to have a high homosexual population. Given the blend of government and "gay," WBC was out in full effect. They were there with banners, disgusting press releases, and diatribes speaking out against our "whorish nation."
On the other side of dividing line was a barrage of "supporters" for the high school. I use "supporters" loosely, because most were there not to support students, but their respective agenda. Some love the military, some love someone is in a homosexual relationship, and some just love the idea that no one should be able to ever disagree with their lifestyle (of any kind). Some got equally offensive in their slurs, some held signs proclaiming God's unconditional love, and some used it as an opportunity to draw attention to themselves.
Amongst this group were a few people I knew personally. They love Jesus and His Truth. THey wanted to give a fair picture of the church to all parties involved, and made it their endeavor to demonstrate a balance between truth and love both boldly and gently. While all other parties left vindicated in the points they made, these folks (according to some Facebook posts and some brief conversations I've had) left today feeling the weight of trying to bring Jesus to both sides of the fence.
This whole idea, of course, is nothing new to Jesus. Jesus is not used to be pigeonholed as only loving or only concerned about justness. On one hand, Jesus had Pharisees and religious leaders who would focus on keeping the letter of the law. Jesus' harshest words (in terms of reprimands) are for them., which can be found in Matthew 23. His mercy to people who had made train wrecks of their lives (see John 8) turns the idea of "do-good religion" on its hind end. At the same time, Jesus refuses to all people to make excuses for their pasts (Luke 19) , or even to live under the idea that they can do whatever they want whenever they want to, and still be okay (Matthew 19). Simply put, Jesus can't be turned into the puppet that either party desires Him to be. While He takes love quite seriously, He refuses to allow people to define "love" simply upon the picture they want to see.
One side of the fence wants to feel vindicated by the idea that they are "better than someone else." The other side feels like any authority is bad authority. Both make God their puppet. One chooses His wrath, and the other His unconditional love.
Read the gospels. If your goal is to feel vindicated by how "awesome" you are and how wrong everyone else is, Jesus will press your self-righteous buttons. If your goal is to pigeon-hole Jesus as just another hate-monger who says he's the "only" way as a means to control you, then you'll find His love and compassion, especially for those who disagree with Him, far greater than you've been taught to believe. Jesus is the ultimate balance of truth and love.
Both side of the fence try to formulate their maker. Some keep Jesus at arms length because they know it will require a moral decision - one they refuse to make. Another is obsessed with the letters of the law, obsessing over secondary religious issues. Where you find one, you often find the other. Westboro Baptist may not be from a big city, but I can name several churches who , whether intentional or not, give a similar message (we're in...you're out...it's us vs. you). I can also name a myriad of people who lack the boldness to say, "I love you too much to not tell you the truth." In Maryland, both fill church buildings every Sunday.
All truth and no love is brutality. All love and no truth is hypocrisy. Both can break the heart of God, and distract people from the gospel.
If you're a Christian, repent frequently. Pray, center your life on Jesus. Let the scriptures affect you greatly. Then, go be bold. Until you've done the former, the latter (the boldness) is likely to end up resulting in the wrong kind of extremism - one that does more harm than good. In the end, your attempt to bring out only one part of Jesus' character will have robbed you and those around him from experiencing Him through you at all.