Hate. Anger. Turmoil. It seems we are surrounded by it constantly these days. We could attribute it to recent tragedies or the political season, but I think it’s more than that. We are a rich country. I’m not saying everyone is rich, but even the poor in our country have access to more food, shelter and services than many other places. Here’s the thing about prosperity: It’s easier to have more time on our hands, and when we have more time, we have the choice to think about the blessings in our lives or all of the things that are not as we would like. We have more time to think, and yet our thoughts don’t always rest on what the Bible tells us in the book of Philippians: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise – meditate on these things.” (Philippians 4:8) Instead, it seems our thoughts go to those things that are more selfish and divisive.
In our country, we’ve endured a long period of time in which a very strong focus was placed on noticing and appreciating our differences. As a result, we have gone to great lengths to point them out more and more. Maybe it is race or heritage, lifestyle or political beliefs, or a host of other things, but we’ve focused on continually highlighting what is different about each other rather than pointing out what is the same. Diversity (in all of its buzzword glory) has been celebrated and our sameness has been ignored. The problem is that when we see ourselves as different, it becomes much easier to judge or fear, or to be angry and lash out. So as a result of our nation’s prosperity – the prosperity our parents and grandparents worked so hard to secure for us – we have had more time to nitpick and tear each other apart. We have celebrated our differences so much that now our differences are most often the only thing we see. The beautiful thing about God is that He doesn’t see what we see when we look at each other. He doesn’t see what is on the outside (and I am not referring only to our appearance); He sees our hearts. Unfortunately, I think what He now sees disappoints Him more than we can probably imagine. After all, He suffered and died for every single one of us regardless of our race, heritage, preferences or even our sins! To Him, sin is sin even though WE like to pick and choose which ones He disapproves of the most. Of course, it’s never the ones with which we personally struggle, but that’s a blog for another time.
I am a white, conservative, heterosexual Christian. I also have friends and loved ones who are of all colors, religions, backgrounds and creeds. I love them all equally. I may have more in common with some, which leads me to spend more time with some, but I do not love them more. As a result of my perspective on love, I have some very deep and meaningful relationships with people that others may not understand. Some would even say I should not have these relationships based on my own “classifications.” What a load of crap! I would not turn my back on those relationships simply because we have different opinions or perspectives. Even the people I encounter and find extremely difficult to even tolerate (let alone love), I am still to love them. Loving as God has commanded means that I will love others and see them as God sees them. And in God’s eyes, they mean so much to Him that they are worth dying for! Do I always succeed at that? Sadly, I do not. Like many of you, I struggle to not get caught up into the anger that comes as a result of one side or another (on any issue) becoming belligerent, uncaring and unloving – even if I might agree with their actual position. Everyone likes to point the finger at others and say they are the “judgers,” but everyone shares that trait in common! Everyone is a hypocrite at one point or another. As a result, we end up living lives that are not abundant. We stress and fight and get tied up in knots internally over the issues that face us, while at the same time God is looking at us saying, “Come unto Me all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matt 11:28) God wants us to rest! He wants us to rest because resting from our labor should be refreshing. When we get quiet, our minds should turn to Him and to a true reflection of ourselves – not the image we try to portray to others.
The truth is that if I am honest and understand exactly who I am, then it doesn’t really matter who you are. Let me explain. If I’m focused on my own relationship with God and what I need to adjust in that relationship – whether it is to ask for forgiveness or to be more committed or love more purely – then I will not be focused on what you are doing in your relationship with Him or others. If I am going to try and love the way I am commanded to love, the only way I can succeed in doing so is if I am keenly aware that without Him I can do nothing – without Him, I am nothing. That isn’t meant to be a self-depreciating flagellation; It is a reality that I did not and do not deserve His love, mercy and grace, yet He gives it freely and continually. I should be keenly aware of that fact – without any rationalization of who I am, the impure and sinful thoughts that I have, the words that I say, or acts that I commit. If I am honest with myself and recognize how imperfect, and even hypocritical, I am, then I won’t see you as less than me. That’s what love is.
After the recent Orlando tragedy, there are a lot of “love wins” quotes once again being circulated. I realize that phrase has been used for one particular cause, but the reality is that truest love DOES win – the love of 1 Corinthians chapter 13 DOES win! It wins because it will cause us to be honest with ourselves and take off our masks so that we can see ourselves for who we are. It allows us to face the truth of Matt 7:3-5 that says, “Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite! First take the log out of your own eye and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”
So in light of recent tragedies, and tragedies that are certain to come over the course of time in an imperfect world, love wins. In light of a political season that is filled with hate and anger from both sides of the aisle love wins. In light of selfishness and meanness, love still wins. Why? Because loving as God love will allow us to not be first and be perfectly okay with it. It will allow you to forgive, even if no one ever says, “I’m sorry.” Love will allow you to treat others with compassion – even those with whom you disagree – and trust God to sort it all out. It may not be the way we want, and it may not be in the timing we want, but my responsibility is to “do what is right, love mercy, and walk humbly before my God.” (Micah 6:8)
After all, God didn’t say it was an option. He didn’t say, “Love the way I do if you feel like it.” He said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” (John 13:34). And if you aren’t sure what that kind of love looks like, then I would encourage you to take the time to read 1 Corinthians chapter 13.
(For an in-depth post on the nature of pure love, click here: Love Is Not Grey)