I actually had a student come forward after a university chapel service and complain because he felt “victimized” by a sermon on the topic of 1 Corinthians 13. It appears that this young scholar felt offended because a homily on love made him feel bad for not showing love. In his mind, the speaker was wrong for making him, and his peers, feel uncomfortable.It’s worth looking at what that sermon was about. This is a standard translation of what that chapter in 1 Corinthians says about love:
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.It’s also useful to consider what sort of place Oklahoma Wesleyan University is. It’s an “evangelical Christian university” formed in 2001 from the mergers of several smaller Christian colleges that had been around since 1909. It serves about 900 students. Its principles include the Bible as “the inerrant and authoritative written Word of God.”
Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
None of that could have been a surprise to the student Piper spoke to. In other words, a student at a very conservative religious college objected to how this sermon asked that he and his fellow students show more love. It’s not clear what sort of compassion this student felt pressured into, but humans are usually slowest to show love for people who are distant or different from us.
How did Piper interpret that in his blog post? He wrote:
Our culture has actually taught our kids to be this self-absorbed and narcissistic. Any time their feelings are hurt, they are the victims. Anyone who dares challenge them and, thus, makes them “feel bad” about themselves, is a “hater,” a “bigot,” an “oppressor,” and a “victimizer.”Whoa! That took a sudden turn. Piper twisted from one conservative Christian student complaining that he shouldn’t have to show love to suggesting that other young students complaining about bigots and oppressors are simply “self-absorbed and narcissistic.” Piper rolled straight over the very real possibility that there are bigots and oppressors who try to bully others—especially those who seem distant or different from themselves—into feeling bad.
Are there such people at Oklahoma Wesleyan University? Let's start with Piper. In August, he announced that he was withdrawing the university from the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities because two other colleges in that organization had decided to hire same-sex couples. So when Piper talks about “showing love,” he has strict limits in mind.