Have you ever been told an expression by somebody older than you which makes absolutely no sense to your generation? Expressions like, “That’s the cat’s pajamas!” “Take a chill pill!” “Be there or be square!” Ever wonder where such strange expressions come from?
Take the word square. Obviously, it means the 4-sided geometric figure. But somewhere along the way, square began to mean something stable which you could count on: such as, fair and square, a square deal, a square meal. Later, the word came to mean something which is so stable and predictable that it is boring, such as when a more free-spirited person tells a strict rule follower, “Don’t be such a square.”
Even though square can have multiple meanings, there is one thing that the word square can never mean: a circle.
After all, if something is a square, then by definition, it can’t be a circle. If something is a circle, then by definition, it can’t be a square. The two cancel each other out. A square circle is a contradiction, an impossibility, a non-thing.
With that in mind, I need to ask you to use your imagination. What if somebody really wants you to give him or her a square circle? What if he or she asks really nicely and even offers to pay good money for it? Sorry, but even for a million bucks, there’s no way that you’re going to be able to give anybody a square circle. Why not? It’s because a square circle is literally impossible. It doesn’t just not exist. It can’t exist.
Now, you may not get asked regularly for a square circle, but as a Christian you will be asked for something which is just as impossible.
Here’s what I’m talking about: You are going to have somebody in your life make a foolish life decision. It’s a decision that is going to wreck the person’s life and wound the people around him or her. Now, that person is going to want you to affirm that foolish decision. And if you don’t affirm that decision, then the person is going to suggest that you are not a very loving person.
So, listen to what is being asked of you, and see if you can catch the “square circle.” You are being asked to show that you care about the person who is making the foolish decision. And the way you’re supposed to show that you care is by not caring about how the person lives. Did you catch it? You are being asked to do a better job of caring about the person by no longer caring about the person.
For example, you’re going to feel pressure to stop caring so much about the unborn vulnerable to abortion. You’re going to get grief for being concerned about another person’s sexual sin or addictive behaviors. Your culture will tell you, “Why don’t you just be a more loving person and stop caring so much about these lifestyle decisions?”
What they don’t know is that they’re asking you for a square circle—something which is literally impossible.
I’m going to quote James 5:19-20, and see if you can catch what James considers the loving thing to do:
My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.
Love, according to the Bible, means wanting and working for what is best for a person. Part of loving people well means helping them to be right with the Lord. If given the choice between affirming a person’s sins and bringing back a sinner from his wandering, Christians should be able to figure out which of those two is love, and which is merely complacency.
So please don’t bend to culture by trying to give people what doesn’t exist. You can’t give a square circle; you have to choose one path or the other—either the path of love or of optimistic complacency. You simply cannot care about a person by no longer caring about the person. Logic won’t allow it. And neither will your Lord.
Daniel McCoy, PHD
Renew.org Editorial Director