We make a choice every minute of our lives.
The choice we make is to love or hate to bring more of heaven or hell to earth.
When we chose to love everyone, serve our fellow man even if it goes against the accepted norm, live in the present, and do the will of God than we have chosen love, heaven, and to follow Jesus. John 10:10 is my favorite verse of the entire bible, in it Jesus says that he has come to give life and life to the full. Living to the full is not about taking stupid risks or feeling good, it is about living in healthy and loving ways. The Great commandment (Matthew 2236:40, Mark 12:28-34) is about loving God, neighbor, and self. I believe that in order to love God and others we must love our self, not in a gratuitous self-absorbed way, but by taking care of our needs and being good to ourselves.
I have a problem with loving myself. I am my own harshest critic. There are times I mentally beat the crap out of myself. I know I need to work on this. I need to see myself the way God sees me.
This is not just a one-time choice. It’s a choice we make in each moment, with everything we do. Our Christianity to mean anything must change how we live in the world. It should affect how we live. If we say, we are Christians, but don’t do the things that the bible teaches than how can we say we really are followers of the Jesus way. As Christians, we are to love the unlovable, accept the unacceptable, to clothe the naked, feed the hungry, and include the excluded.
In the gospels, we find Jesus healing, forgiving, and dining with men and women who the authorities find unlovable, unacceptable, and believe should be excluded. Yet, Jesus found more wrong with the religious elite than with sinners. Jesus saved his harshest words for the religious leaders.
Our response to all of life should be love. Love should have the last word.
Not some nifty theory, but something we need to put into practice in each moment.
It’s easy to look the other way to go on our way. We just want to ignore the hurting and lost people around us to put our personal concerns first. We often think ‘I’m not my brother’s keeper’, sometimes we even say this aloud. We go on our way. We let bad things fester into evil, things don’t get better they only get worse. If we want things to be different, we must be the change. If we want to be true followers of Jesus, we will have to get our hands and feet dirty in loving people in real ways. We must stand up for love, for what Jesus stood for and wants his followers to stand up to not letting the suffering continue. The gospels tell us emphatically that suffering and death is not the end of the story.
Christians say they are against abortion that its murder, yet how many of us are standing up for the children around us. How many of us look the other way when children are being bullied or abused.
Christians say they want to protect the sanctity of marriage, but how many of us get married too soon or divorce too quickly. How many of us fail in small ways to honor and love their spouse.
Christians say they take the bible literal, but how often do we do what Jesus said to do instead of reading our agenda into the bible. How many times have we excluded people by using the bible as a weapon?
These are just three ways we (and I include myself in this), Christians do not live the teachings and spirit of the Jesus way. I don’t live up to the Jesus way all the time either. This is why we need a savior and why I am so thankful that our savior is Jesus.
Christian’s should be known as the people that love everyone, love wastefully and radically. We should not just preach love, but love. Whenever someone no matter who they are encounters us, they should leave knowing we love them that God loves them. If we want people to adapt our religion, we should love them and not yell ‘you’re going to hell’ unless they accept our beliefs and ideas. Jesus never did that. If you disagree, I challenge you to point to a single time that Jesus went up to someone and said they were going to hell unless they say the sinners’ prayer. Paul exhorts his readers to model the Jesus way. Both John and James in their letters say to walk the walk and not just talk about it.
C. S. Lewis said to have Faith in Christ “means, of course, trying to do all that He says. There would be no sense in saying you trusted a person if you would not take his advice. Thus if you have really handed yourself over to Him, it must follow that you are trying to obey Him. Trying in a new way, a less worried way. Not doing these things in order to be saved, but because He has begun to save you already. Not hoping to get to Heaven as a reward for your actions, but inevitably wanting to act in a certain way because a first faint gleam of Heaven is already inside you.”
Loving God, others, and ourselves is not about getting into heaven after we die or any other reward we might gain. It’s about living the way we should. If we want to be loved than we should love, if we want to be treated well than we should treat others well, if we want to be blessed with goodness than we should bless others with goodness. Yes, it is that simple. We should live our lives knowing that God loves us, there’s nothing we can do to love any more or less. That’s what grace means. Grace says we are loved and forgiven no strings attached, but that’s not all, that’s just the beginning. We must begin with grace and move outward. We love because God first loved us. God never asked us to clean ourselves up or conform to some idealized image He had for us. God loves and leaves it at that.
We shouldn’t just relish our forgiveness, gather in small groups and praise what Jesus has done, is doing and will do. That’s all good. We should do something. We should live our lives in love by extending love to others; to those we have a hard time loving. I have a hard time loving Mormons, conservatives, rude people, extremists, bigots, and violent people. That’s just a small portion of people I have a hard time loving. Yet, I have been pushing myself to love more and more.
If loving people were easy, it would not be such a risky, worthy, and noble pursuit and wouldn’t need to be commanded to do it. The entire bible is replete with verses on loving people. Mother Theresa said, if we want to make a difference we should convince one person who thinks they are alone and unloved that God loves them no matter what.
My hope: we will have chances to love people, to love everyone no matter who they are and what they believe.
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