[Part 1 of 7 – Tough Love]
God told us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.
But who are our neighbors? The people next door? The people on our block? The people we like? Fellow Christians? Fellow Americans? The whole world?
It’s a deceivingly complex concept. Love the world. Every single person in the world.
It’s seems so easy. But, for the most part, it’s stunningly difficult.
We are expected to have unconditional love for everyone. Most of us as Christians think that that is a wonderful idea, until we realize that that means we have to love the jerk at the office, the woman who hit your car and didn’t leave a note, the guy that cheated on your daughter, the woman who divorced you and took all your money, the person responsible for the death of your father, everybody, regardless of how horrible they have been.
Now that is hard.
And therefore, we place rules on society. Follow these rules and you’ll get my love.
As long as you aren’t a criminal. As long as you aren’t gay. As long as you aren’t a democrat. As long as you keep your hair cut. As long as your socks match.
And though some of our rules are ridiculous, some we are dead set on believing they are justified.
For example, the majority of Christians that I’ve met are staunch believers in the death penalty. “If you do something so terrible, such as murder someone or molest a child, you deserve to die. And you’ll get no love from me.”
And while it’s true that we are not to pretend like these actions aren’t as bad as they really are, we should never develop a mindset of “Well, they don’t deserve life, love, or liberty anymore.” As if that’s our decision to make.
When society takes a turn we do not agree with, such as California legalizing gay marriage, we protest. We hold up signs and spit Bible verses from our mouths like one would expletives. Is that how we should speak God’s Word?
With bile on our tongues?
The truth is we often see this world as an unruly child in public. Instead of bending down, looking the child in the eye and lovingly chastising them, we smack the mess out of the kid.
I admit I struggle with this daily. It’s very hard to love those I don’t like very much.
But it is a bit easier for me, having been on the receiving end of Christian un-love. It doesn’t matter to some people if you are a Christian or not when you screw up bad enough.
So, having met many other people who have failed our fellow Christians, but have since striven to make things right, I have a soft spot in my heart for those in prison. I have a soft heart towards those who are screw-ups, addicts, stumblers, those at rock bottom.
Love is directly connected to grace.
As Christians, we should know full well the awesome power of grace. All of our sins washed away in forgiveness and love from God, our Father.
So, why is grace so foreign to us? How does the world see us? Why is forgiveness hard, so hard that there are some that we will refuse to ever forgive? What can we do to correct this? What should an unconditionally loving Christian look like?