Love is active in two directions. It not only does good, but
it also hates what is evil.
Legal and Loving
A Christian’s actions must be both legal and loving. Legal, by submitting to the Lordship of Christ, which includes submitting to established human authorities (Rom 13:1-2). Loving, by acting in the interest of others, not for our own self-interest (Phil 2:3-4). Understanding our allegiances will help us know what actions meet these criteria.
We are heirs to a kingdom not of this world (John 18:36, Gal 4:7, Rev 1:5-6). Neither do we serve the ruler of this world, whose works are opposed to our King (John 12:31, Eph 6:12). But we are in this world even if we are not of it (John 17:14-16). It’s as if our feet are in the door of two kingdoms, waiting to transfer out of one into the other (Col 1:13, Heb 13:14-15), while the other is transforming this one (Matt 6:10, Mark 11:10, Luke 10:9). Indeed, our King rules over all creation (Ps 103:19, Isa 37:16), and a time is coming when the temporary ruler of this world will be deposed (John 12:31, Rev 12:9).
Because of this hierarchical citizenship, our actions may seem wrong to those who do not understand it. For example, John Bunyan, author of The Pilgrim’s Progress, acted illegally according to his earthly masters by preaching the Gospel without a license, but he acted legally according to his higher citizenship by obeying the will of God. His preaching was illegal in one sense, but legal in the ultimate sense (Acts 4:19). We should care about our witness to a watching world (Matt 5:14-16), but to follow Christ means that our actions may be interpreted as illegal or unloving at times (Phil 2:15, John 15:18-20). When the choices before us are morally neutral, we can give primacy to the desires and opinions of others (Gal 5:13-14, 1 Cor 8). But in cases of right and wrong, our responsibility is to God (Acts 4:15-20).
All of this means that godly Christian action takes wisdom and fortitude. Paul, writing to the Romans, calls us not to be conformed to this world and to be able to test and discern what the Lord would have us do (Rom 12:2). He goes on to describe genuine love, beginning with, “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good” (Rom 12:9). Love, then, is active in two directions. It not only does good, but it also hates what is evil. As we consider how this applies to masking mandates, especially in the church, we must evaluate whether our actions are legal and loving, but in both directions. Preachers must preach both grace and repentance. Friends must exhort with both affirmation and admonition. And Christian citizens must both submit and resist their governing authorities. Genuine love demands both.