One day a group guys are listening to Jesus teach and a lawyer (yes it was a lawyer) asked him a question.
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”
Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
Matthew 22: 38-40
Everything God wants us to be and do can be summed up by:
- Love God
- Love People
So what then is it about “Love” that has many Christians getting defensive? As more and more of Christianity has been waking up to the fact that love has NOT been the quality most closely associated with us, still others seem threatened that this focus on “love” is somehow diluting the “truth”.
Lately I’ve begun to see Christian leaders mocking “love” as if it were almost a lesser quality associated with weakness or timidity… and I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had other Christians say to me, “Yes Steve, of course we should love…but…” And then they will go on to say how Love shouldn’t interfere with standing up for truth, justice, and even the American Way. Which begs the question of whether we are supposed to be following Christ or Superman?
What it really comes down to is the reason many Christians feel threatened by love being the central message of the Christian faith is simply because they don’t WANT to love people!
It’s much easier to be the defender of Truth or be the arbiter of Righteousness. To have a ministry that focuses on smoking out the heresy in others has to have its fun days! Then our finger can be pointed at those “bad people” outside our circle rather having to examine why we’ve even created a circle in the first place!
Isn’t that what really frightens us? That love threatens the circles we have drawn? That Love tears down the fences we erect and leaves us vulnerable and reliant on Christ and Christ alone.
Jesus has a nasty habit of tearing down fences that separate. He tore down the fence between:
- Jew & Gentile (racial and cultural divisions)
- Male & Female (gender divisions)
- Freeman & Slave (political and socioeconomic divisions)
And then he tore down the biggest fence of all; the fence that separated God and Man.
And he tore down all these fences not by defending laws, beliefs, and practices…but through the love he showed to us.
Love tears down fences…and that’s why love is viewed as “suspect.”
Yes, of course Christians want to love… in the “lead them to Christ and say this prayer with me” kind of love. We love them enough to want them to join us on our side of the fence…
…But the Love that Paul refers to in 1 Corinthians 13 is the Love that tears down the notion of fences and divisions to begin with. It is the Love we are to have so that people will know we are Christ’s disciples.
Love is Kind: But really we don’t want to be kind. What we want is for our way to be vindicated by God. We don’t WANT to be kind to the Muslim or homosexual, we want a justification so that we don’t have to be kind. Jesus said it would be easy to be kind to people we liked but the real test is the kindness we show to the stranger.
Love is Patient: Love patiently waits for people no matter where they are in their relationship with God. Some respond sooner, some later but followers of Christ remain lovingly patient regardless.
Love does not dishonor others: Unless of course they are named George W. Bush or Barack Obama then all bets are off and we can dishonor them as much as we like…
Love keeps no score of wrongs: Oh, but we so love to keep score. How else are we supposed to know how our own relationship to God stacks up in regards to someone else? How can we compare ourselves if we’re not keeping score?
And the list goes on…
The focus on these love qualities should be understanding that this is the way Christ loves us. The reason I want to love others this way is because this is how Jesus LOVES ME!
“We love because he first loved us.”
1 John 4:19
If Christ is being patient, kind, and honoring of me…and I’ve received him into my heart, than I should be patient, kind, and honoring of others as a natural part of who I am…
…and THAT is how people will know I am a follower of Christ!
We are called to love God…and love People, with no “if’s” “ands” or “buts” about it!