It has become common for some evangelicals to accuse other evangelicals of being lacking in love because they take firm stances on ethical, doctrinal, and practical issues. The discussion, confrontation, and exposing of others’ positions is considered unloving.
It is possible that, in the heat of an argument or debate, words or phrases come out that could have been expressed in a different way. Wisdom resides in knowing the “proper time and the just way” of saying things (Eccl. 8:5). All of us have experienced the frustration of finding out that we don’t always say things in the best way.
Nevertheless, it is not unloving to confront brothers who are not walking in the truth, just as Paul confronted Peter when he stopped walking according to the truth of the gospel (Gal. 2:11). Many will say that this attitude is arrogant and that no one is the owner of the truth. Others, however, understand that it is part of our biblical calling to examine all things and to keep what is right and reject what is false, wrong, and unjust.
To speak of love is not a guarantee of spirituality and truth. There are those who boast of loving and do not live a righteous life before God. Paul criticized this attitude in his writings to Corinthians, who boasted about being a spiritual, loving church and at the same time tolerated immorality among themselves (see 1 Cor. 5:1–8). The argument of churches today that tolerate all types of conduct is exactly this—that they are loving churches that do not condemn or exclude anyone.
No biblical writer wrote more about love than the Apostle John, who is known for this reason as the “Apostle of love.” However, this is what the Apostle of love said about church leaders who had left the path of truth:
They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. (1John 2:19)
Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. (v. 22)
By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil. (3:10)
Could we accuse John of lack of love for the firmness with which he resists theological error? Biblical love disciplines, corrects, reprehends, and tells the truth. And when it sees error that is followed by repentance and contrition, it forgives, forgets, and supports.
Therefore, the love that is practiced by those who get offended by the defense of the faith, the exposing of error, and the confrontation of untruths is not biblical love. Lack of love would be letting people continue to be tricked without at least trying to show them their errors.