Love…. So much is said and done in the name of love. We love God. We love our spouses. We love our children. We love pizza…..
Because I am a Christian, “that word” is thrown in my face at the corner of every social issue.
“If you are a Christian, you’re supposed to love. Therefore, you should do this_______.”
“If you follow Jesus, how can you believe that? Jesus is love.”
For the record, I’m no activist on the street corner. I’m just a follower of Jesus traipsing through life trying to decipher how to best love in individual situations. I can’t deal with looking at people as groups. I’m just not geared that way. I see faces.
Here is what I know. Jesus is love. I follow Jesus, but I don’t worship love. I worship Jesus.
I know. It sounds logical that if Jesus is love, and I worship Jesus, I should therefore worship love. But, love in this fallen world has been corrupted and manipulated into something weak and pathetic. That “love” is terrified of having different opinions, of offending, of making people feel uncomfortable because of one’s beliefs.
I don’t want that kind of love. Comfort is not my primary goal in my relationships. I want a love that is tenacious and wild and courageous. I want fearless love.
Even when dealing with lost people, Jesus confronted some pretty uncomfortable things in conversation. If you don’t believe me read John 4, where Jesus speaks to the woman at the well. The Samaritan woman visits the well in the heat of the day. Hmmm…wonder what would motivate a person visit a well in the most miserable part of the day when no one was expected to be around? A Jewish man asks her to draw him some water, defying social tradition, then brings up all the men she had ever been with. (Not exactly “polite conversation”). When she challenges him back Jesus is gentle and kind with his words, but he does not shy away from her confrontation.
The phrase “love the sinner, but hate the sin” sounds trite and self-righteous. But if I strip away the tone of the people who have shouted the phrase and made me cringe, and leave the words to stand alone, there is truth to be found.
Jesus was kind, gentle, and patient with those who were a slave to their sin. The world is right on that point. But, Jesus was not a friend to their slave master.
Jesus was beaten, bloodied and bruised beyond recognition in the most epic battle for love of all time. He alone felt the full weight of darkness and brokenness upon his shoulders. He alone took on the wrath of God in our place in order for everyone to have the opportunity to pursue relationship with a holy God. Jesus is no friend to sin. True, he loves us right where we are at, but does not want us to remain there.
World, you call out that you want us to love you like Jesus. I don’t think that means what you think it means. If we are worth our “salt” we won’t “leave you alone.” Yes, love is gentle and kind. People shouldn’t be beaten down and belittled for the sake of one proclaiming who is right and who is wrong. But, love does require refusing to change beliefs for the sake of making others comfortable. Sometimes being loving, means saying no.
Not only is love not always comfortable to receive, it is uncomfortable to give. If Jesus is the ultimate example, then giving love can feel a lot like death. Death of pride. Death of self-righteousness. And dare I say it, death to traditions that we embrace as biblical but are found nowhere in scripture. Christian brothers and sisters, we say we love like Jesus. I’m not sure it means what we think it means.
I for one am glad Jesus doesn’t look at me and say, “You’re all right just where you are. Go ahead and make your habits and lifestyle more important than me. Anything as long as you feel good and comfortable.” I did not give my heart to an enabler. I gave my heart to a life changer.
No matter our social justice leanings, I think it is high time we take a closer look at the “love of Jesus” on the activist signs of two opposing sides, and take a minute and understand what that love really means.
The question isn’t “Does Jesus love?” The answer to that question is always YES. The question is, “What is getting in the way of experiencing that love?” Jesus does not place limits on his love. We do that.
Catch up with me on Thursday for my thoughts on “unclaimed grace” inspired by baby Levi and the current message series from Calvary Chapel Chattanooga.