Study Guide: Love is Not Rude

Sunday November 3, 2002 | Greg Boyd

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

The “big picture” of God’s goal for creation is that we will learn to live in the center of His love. This is not a hypothesis but a lived experience where love comes to us by Jesus Christ. This transforms us and flows from us to others, with God at the center.

Extended Summary:

Greg started this sermon with a review of the past few months. The “big picture” of God’s goal for creation is that we will learn to live in the center of His love. This is not a hypothesis, but a lived experience where love comes to us by Jesus Christ. This transforms us, and flows from us to others. God is at the center. As we learned in Genesis 2 and 3, God intended us to enjoy the provision and honor the prohibition “in the center of the garden.” However, our sin has turned this intention inside out. Now we are at the center, seeking to get our own provision and thus violating the prohibition. Life becomes a stage of idols that we hope will meet our needs, but in the end, these idols fail. With us in the center, we operate out of emptiness. We strategize how we can get life and who can give us life. Last week, we learned that this can take the form of boasting and arrogance where we hope to impress people with our strengths. Another strategy for meeting this emptiness involves how we use people. We treat “important” people with honor, and we ignore “unimportant” people. In today’s description of love, Greg addresses this by preaching that love is not rude.

We are rude when a person’s concerns, thoughts, ideas, feelings, or opinions do not matter to us. When we are at the center and not God then we will invariably treat well those people that we stand to get something from, and rudely those that have nothing to offer us. Greg shared how in preparing for this sermon he wondered how he was going to preach a whole sermon on rudeness. The issue seemed rather small and simple. However, the issue is huge and he illustrated this with the following syllogism:

  1. Any belief or action without love is “religious noise” (I Cor. 13:1-3).
  2. Love is considerate of others (not rude) (I Cor. 13:5).

Therefore, any belief or action (however true and noble) is “religious noise” if accompanied by rudeness.

This is supremely important! It is just as significant as Christian doctrine (i.e. the Trinity, Incarnation, Inerrancy of Scripture, etc.).

However, while understanding the importance of not being rude, we must also realize that it is not an ethical mandate. If we focus on the behavior, we will quickly realize that there is a lot of ambiguity and complexity in life. Instead, the Apostle Paul’s point in I Corinthians 13 is to walk in love. To love is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22); it is not something that we can manufacture. Thus, we must look to Jesus (II Cor. 3:17-18). He transforms us! Jesus (and not a religious or ethical system) is life in a complex world.

Greg concluded by stating that evangelism is one area where Christians often act rudely. Instead of seeing people with infinite dignity and worth, we treat people as potential converts, problems to be fixed, opponents to be refuted, or an evil to be crushed. In contrast, we must find points of contact between their world and the Good News that will provide a door for effective evangelism. The Apostle Paul demonstrated this principle when he spoke to the Athenians (Acts 17:22-23). He affirmed them where he could (“I see how extremely religious you are in every way.”), and found common ground to build on (“I found among them an altar with the inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.”) Our job is to share Christ in love, not rudeness. If we do not, all the truth and orthodoxy we share will simply be a “noisy gong.”

Reflection Questions:

  1. Explain how not being rude is as important as correctly understanding Christian doctrine.
  2. What did Greg say is the reason that Jesus disengaged from answering the details of ethical questions (see Luke 12:13-15 and Matthew 22:1-10)?
  3. Why did Greg state that the Apostle Paul’s words to the Athenians (see Acts 17:22-23) should serve as our model for witnessing and not the confrontational approach of John the Baptist and the Old Testament prophets?