Many of you may have read the incredible book entitled “Love Does’ by Bob Goff. I borrowed his title for this blog post because it is just so fitting. My heart gets heavy sometimes when I think about the love of Jesus and how so often down here on earth we get it twisted and we don’t give the image of Jesus that is true and accurate. The pastors at our church always say that Jesus is attractive once you get to know Him but there can be so many things about traditional “church” that are unattractive to visitors, so we always want to go the extra mile to make everyone feel welcome, comfortable and at home when they enter our doors.
Think about that for a minute, I would bet that everyone reading this has at one point or another found themselves in a situation that felt uncomfortable. Maybe it was not necessarily at church but we have all felt less than welcome and uncomfortable at some point in our lives. As followers of Jesus, we should never contribute to anyone feeling unwelcome or unloved.
If Jesus is our example, let’s look to scripture to some of the people Jesus encountered and how he treated them. We could explore these stories one by one and go much deeper but I have found the equation in each story to be the same. Jesus bumped into people unlike him, people who had made questionable life choices, & people who had committed crimes. But those stories all ended the same so the equation goes like this: a messed up, broken individual + Jesus = truth spoken in love & lots of grace. If Jesus showed so much grace, who are we to withhold that from our brothers and sisters here on earth?
Unfortunately, I think religion & self proclaimed “religious” people are what give the rest of us Jesus followers a bad rep. Jesus was not about religion, He was about love. In the bible, it was the religious people that gave Jesus the most grief and still today, it is the religious people who make Jesus so confusing to those who don’t know Him. They hear about God’s love and then get shunned because of how they are dressed or because of who they love or because they have too many tattoos. That’s confusing, I for one am very grateful that the love of Jesus is not based on anything we do or don’t do because He loves us unconditionally.
The unconditional love of Jesus does not mean that we should just run wild and do whatever we please, He loves us far too much for that so he left us a guide within scripture and told us how to live. Jesus knows the best way so He shared that with us knowing if we followed his instructions that it would be for our good and for His glory. I think living that way is living life to the full that is mentioned in scripture. Jesus was perfect and holy & if anyone could have turned their nose up and judged folks, it was Him but he did not do that. Nor did he avoid or speak ill of the people who were different than him. He taught love. He taught us to love Him first and foremost and then to love ALL His people. Our church’s first two core values are “Love God and Love People” because those are the two greatest commandments. It sounds simplistic but those two things are really our greatest calling.
I think it is easy for churches and people in the culture to get it twisted because it is easy to think that if you love the drug addicts, the thieves, the homosexuals, that you are condoning their behavior. That is not what love is. You can disagree with a lifestyle & still love the people in it. That is what Jesus did. Not some of the time but all of the time & I don’t think He would ever expect us to shun those who are behaving differently or choosing differently than we do.
Churches and Christians have to be like hospitals and medical staff to those who are hurting and for those who don’t know Jesus. Our actions or reactions should never push the people we are trying to reach farther away. Because here is the thing, we are all imperfect, sinful humans with our own individual bag of rocks & we can’t rate sin. Jesus looks at me and the guy serving a life sentence for murder with the same eyes. He sees my sin and he sees his sin and it is all the same, it is sin. God does not love me more because my sin is “less” than the murderer because there is no scale. My sin is just as great as the guy in jail – it may not have the same consequences but it is just as great so I am in no position to judge him if our God views us the same.
It is so easy to get puffed up as you size up other people and before you realize it, you are thinking “at least I am not that bad.” We have to get rid of this sin scale that was created in our minds and focus on love, truth , and grace. Pull out your bibles and you will find Jesus there and the lessons he taught. Jesus ran to the hurting people & He loved ALL the people – especially the ones that were hard to love.
If you want to read some of the stories of Jesus loving on people and showing grace then read about the woman at the well, Zacchaeus in the tree, the criminal hanging on the cross, the story of Judas and Peter & the list goes on and on but that is a good start to show the character of Jesus. I am convinced that we are called to love & then we can leave the rest up to Jesus. If we know Jesus and love him then a love for others is going to come fairly naturally. It may not always be easy but when your cup is full of Him then it is going to eventually overflow and splash a little Jesus on everyone around you.
In Bob Goff’s book that I mentioned earlier, he talks about how love does, because love is not something we just say, it is something we do. Bob reminds us that love does things. In Chapter 1 of that book there is a quote that says “I used to want to fix people, but now I just want to be with them.” That is so beautiful! I can totally relate to that sentiment because I used to think I was the fixer of all things until God taught me a little humility and how little control I actually have. See, we can only do what we can do & then we just know that God is big enough and wise enough to take care of the rest.
That is refreshing isn’t it? We don’t have to sort through everyone’s shortcomings or choices, we are only called to love them. All we need is love. I would have been a really good hippie:)
Seriously, I was at a funeral today & the pastor said He believes we will enter Heaven not simply because we are religious but because we loved well. AMEN and AMEN. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life & if we love Him, ask Him into our hearts to lead and guide us and love others well then I think we will have a sweet retirement plan when our life on earth is done. Go love on somebody today and tell them Jesus sent you!