I’ve been thinking a lot about love lately.
And not in the way most of you are probably thinking.
We’ve all heard the phrase, “love thy neighbor” but I think we’ve fallen into the lie that the “neighbor” we are called to love is that sweet family with the white picket fence and perfectly manicured grass and flourishing garden. We don’t believe that it means the neighbor who lives in a crack house with busted windows and worn down siding, the neighbor with tall and unruly grass, or in the projects; the neighbor with abusive words and hands, the neighbor who raises a loaded gun to an innocent man or woman’s head, the neighbor who rapes, steals, or ridicules.
With increased tragic events around the globe that have been highlighted recently, the mass shooting in Orlando, the snipers in Dallas, and the senseless deaths of men like Alton Sterling, I’ve been thinking about the call to love. There is so much in this life that is distorted and skewed. So, I’ve been thinking about the command to love given by the Father. What is that kind of love anyway?
I used to think that I was pretty good at loving people.
I’m typically friendly to people in passing. I enjoy helping people.
I actively serve in my church and community. I help those in need.
That’s what that means, right? Yes and no.
If my understanding of love only means helping and being nice, I’ve missed the mark.
I am called to love. I am called to serve, pray for, give up for, give to, and be there for others. I am called to love those who cannot or refuse to love me back. My heart should break at the event of injustice, that someone is not treated with love, or does not know their worth in the Kingdom. I should do what I can to help them see it. That is the type of love that I am supposed to have and model for everyone.
Catch that last part?
I’m called to love (serve, pray for, give up for, give to, and be there for) everyone.
I am called to love my family.
I am called to love my friends.
I am called to love my neighbor.
I am called to love my community.
I am called to love my church.
I am called to love my school.
I am called to love my state, country, and world.
I am called to love the poor, the downtrodden, and the abused.
I am called to love those who cannot help themselves.
I am called to love the homeless, refugees, widows.
I am called to love all of those who society deems, expects, and suggests I should love.
But you know who else is included in that?
Everyone that it is not necessarily easy to love;
the ones society tells me I should hate or fear.
Those of other religions.
Those who I cannot understand.
Those who wrong me.
Those who spit in my face.
They are included in that everyone
And that is where my ability to love like I am commanded is tested.
But the scriptures are clear; get this:
27 “But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. 28 Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also. 30 Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back. 31 Do to others as you would like them to do to you.
32 “If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them! 33 And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit? Even sinners do that much! 34 And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit? Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return.35 “Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. 36 You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.
The Lord’s heart breaks to see His people far from Him. He is kind. He is compassionate. He died a brutal death so that death could die – for EVERYONE. He died even for those who have turned away from Him. He died even for those who have chosen to walk down dark paths, those who have stolen, abused, assaulted, or murdered. He died for and loves even those who have performed the most horrifying and heartbreaking crimes. His heart breaks that they are truly, and deeply lost. I have before sang the words “break my heart for what breaks Yours, everything I am for Your Kingdom’s cause…” That includes everyone, good or bad. Jesus pays specific attention in the Gospels to those who have been hurt, beaten down, misplaced. But He also offers grace to those who have committed crimes, including crimes against Him. If He can forgive and love, including forgiving and loving me for any wrongs I’ve ever committed – no strings attached. Then so can I. I don’t have to agree with their actions, in fact, I can hate the evil of those. But the people, I do need to love them.
I want to develop the love that Christ has for all of this Earth.
I want to love those who are hurting, but I want to be able to love those committing the hurt. I want my heart to break at the thought that someone is so lost, angry, confused, racist, and far from God that they commit senseless acts of murder, abuse, terror and crime.
Through love comes change. Love brings healing. Love brings life.
When we love the unloveable, something different can be seen.
Hearts can be stirred through kindness, grace can spur more grace, and compassion can be a catalyst of reflection. We should be speaking love, life and truth to everyone we meet. I want people to look at the way I walk through life and think, “What causes her to be that way? How can she love people like that?”
I am called to be different and set apart, and in a world full of hate, pointing fingers, and brokenness; loving everyone is a surefire way to be different and set apart. It is a way to show grace, love, and most importantly- Christ.
Whenever I am talking to those I teach in small groups, counsel, talk with those I’m close to, or even just people who I find myself in conversation with about life, I frequently tell them: “I love you. I care for you. I want to see you well. I want you to know you are better than whatever has convinced you to live this way. You are precious in the Lord’s eyes. He wants you to come to Him. He wants to set you free from the chains that break you. He wants to walk through this with You. Don’t give up. Don’t lose hope. There is redemption for all of your wrongs if you will just turn from them and walk with Him. He loves you. I love you.”
And so I want to be able to look a murderer, a rapist, a terrorist, a thief, an abuser, or someone who spits in my face, in the eye and say, “I love you. I care for you. I want to see you well. I want you to know you are better than whatever has convinced you to live this way. You are precious in the Lord’s eyes. He wants you to come to Him. He wants to set you free from the chains that break you. He wants to walk through this with You. Don’t give up. Don’t lose hope. There is redemption for all of your wrongs if you will just turn from them and walk with Him. He loves you. I love you.”
Because there is.
Because we are all included in everyone.
And thank God we are, because we were all lost, unworthy, and in sin.
But through the grace of God, we can be set free, we can walk in new life, and look forward to eternity. Who will you love as you do that?