Thursday, July 23, 2015

By This Everyone Will Know

I have been seriously convicted lately. Remember my post a couple of weeks ago titled "Just Another Beggar"? In it I talked about love and how we, as Christ-followers, are called to love others unconditionally. In fact, if we take the bible into account (which we always should but somehow tend to forget to do), then according to the verse above love is how the world will identify us as Christ-followers. 

This is a concept that I thought I understood. It's funny how God does that. He gets us exactly where we feel comfortable. The areas where I'm like, no really God, I got this. He's like . . . nope. I thought I understood the concept that Christians should love people like Jesus did. We say it every Sunday. We grow up hearing it. We know it, but we don't know it. We have the knowledge in our heads but not the concept in our hearts. In fact, I think this could be our downfall if we aren't careful. 

Christians don't love.

It's harsh, and of course there are always exceptions. But generally we don't. We judge. A lot. I think mostly out of fear. We fear what goes against our beliefs and so instead of acting in love we act out in judgment and hate. Jesus straight up tells us "By this everyone will know you are my disciples, if you love one another." He doesn't disguise it in a parable or use phrasing that is hard to decipher. This is one verse in the bible that has no alternate interpretations. He's basically saying, "Hey! All you people who claim to believe in me and follow me! You know how to make sure that other people know that about you, too? Love them!" It seems so simple, right? Love. Love people. That's what sets us apart from the rest of the world. But it isn't simple at all.

Look at the world today. We've created a generation of victims; people who are offended by every little thing they see on TV or social media. Bible verses offend people, every flag that exists offends people. Caitlin Jenner is praised for being who he (she?) truly believes she is while Tim Tebow, The Robertsons, and other publicly professing Christians in the media are told to keep their thoughts and beliefs to themselves. We are blaring out the idea that it is fine and dandy to be yourself as long as the version of "yourself" that you are doesn't offend anybody. Unfortunately that's impossible. Everything everyone does offends someone. We can't help it. The people in our society no longer have any firm beliefs of their own; therefore, it is easy to convince them that this or that should be considered offensive. Instead of just standing firm in our own beliefs in spite of what someone else posts online we react with outrage. Are our ideals so weak that a mere tweet could cause us to lose our sh*t? That a swatch of fabric, a quoted scripture, or a photo of a same-sex couple could cause us to feel so insecure in our foundations that we have to attack? Since when does everyone have to agree to get along? 

But I'm getting a bit off topic. 

Love isn't simple. Why isn't it simple? Think about the person you love most in the world. I bet there is nothing on earth that person could do to make you stop loving them. Oh, I'm sure there are plenty of things that person could do to make you angry or that could break your heart. But why would your heart break? Because you love them. 
I love Jake with everything I am. Jake is a sinful, imperfect human being who screws up occasionally, like we all do. He has the capability to break me in two if he wanted. He could say something that shattered my spirit. He could leave me. There are thousands of things he could do to break my heart. And God forbid something happens to him. My world would fall apart. The same could be said of my family. There is nothing they could do to make me love them less, but there are plenty of scenarios involving any one of them that could leave me brokenhearted. Why? Because I love them. When you love someone you give them the ability to hurt you. When you truly love and care about someone unconditionally, then there are so many ways that can come back and bite you. 

Look at the cross. Jesus came and he loved. He loved like no one had ever seen. He loved the prostitutes, the tax collectors, and the sinners. He loved you and he loved me. He loved us all so much that he died to break down the barriers between God and man. He suffered immense physical and emotional pain. His own disciples didn't recognize him for who he really was; the Son of God. They deserted him in his time of need. Yet he loved them enough to die. Why would we expect any less? Why would we think that when Jesus told us to love one another it would be any easier for us than it was for him?

I thought I loved people. But pretending to like someone isn't love. Being nice to someone and then patting myself on the back because "isn't that what Jesus would have done?" isn't love. Gossiping about someone's failures and faults isn't love. Talking sh*t behind someone's back isn't love. Yet these are all things that I do more frequently than I could handle admitting. In the South we have a joke that you can say anything you want about anyone and as long as you follow it up with "Bless her heart" then it doesn't count. That's nothing more than justification for gossip and slander and I am the worst. The worst of the worst, really. It's hard to love sinners because sinners sin. Sin hurts. We think it only hurts us so what's the harm, really? But sin hurts you and everyone who loves you. It's easier not to love. It's easier to just like and to enjoy being around; but to actually, truly, unconditionally love . . . well that's just too hard. 

If we loved the way Jesus calls us to then our hearts would always be broken. If we loved unconditionally then we would hurt for every lost person we came into contact with. If we could see people through Jesus' eyes and love them as a Child of God then we wouldn't be afraid of another person's beliefs. 

"There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear because fear involves punishment. So the one who fears is not perfected in love." 1 John 4:18

If we loved the way God asks us to, then we wouldn't attack someone when their beliefs contrasted with our own. We would show them Christ's love in the hope that they would come into a relationship with him. We do not have the ability to change someone's heart. Only God has that power. We have the ability to love. The entire world is entrenched in hate. How do we cut through that hate? How do we spread the gospel of Christ? We set ourselves apart. 

We love.

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