My whole life, it has made me sad to observe us all as a people (the U.S.), because we have a bad habit of choosing more reasons to divide thand we do to unite. After last-year’s debacle, it occurred to me that the issues we’ve been facing are largely due to a lack of love.
As Christians, we have 2 jobs: to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength and to love our neighbors as ourselves. But this love is not according to how we think it should be, but by the example shown to us by Jesus. While it may have seemed that He was just doing His own thing, Jesus’ every word and deed were trainings that He passed on to the 12 disciples who He sent out to “tenderly care for the bruised and hurt lives” (Pastor Jason Schifo) around the world, starting on their own home turf.
It’s written this way in Matthew 10:7-8 (NLT): Jesus told the disciples to…
Go and announce to them that the Kingdom of Heaven is near. Heal the sick, raise the dead, cure those with leprosy, and cast out demons. GIVE AS FREELY AS YOU HAVE RECEIVED!
As freely as we have received our salvation by grace (for God so loved the world, right?), we are being sent out to give the same love to the world by the same grace that has saved us. We are to be tenderly caring for the bruised and hurt lives which, I’d wager, sums up the entirety of the planet! This tender care will help to heal the sick emotions, raise dead hearts, and replace the rampant evil of this world with God’s goodness. This tender care is simply love.
If we ask the internet, we can find anywhere from 4 to 8 different types of love, depending on who’s answering. Today, I only want to focus on one type – the unconditional, Godly type of love – Agape.
Agape is a love that loves without changing or getting frustrated – it never runs out of love. It gives of itself without demanding or expecting anything in return. It is a love so enormous that it can be given to the unkind, the unpleasant, and even the unlovable. It is a love that loves even when it is rejected or neglected. This love gives and loves just because it wants to. The most important detail about this love is that it cannot and will never fail.
The love God asks of us has nothing to do with how we feel, but has everything to do with what we say and do…and how we execute both. True love is always demonstrated by action, and is thus a verb. In fact, how much we love God is, quite accurately, measured by how well we treat people. By this scale, love is the only circumstance under which any group of people should EVER be lumped together. But, in our selective love (measured by our feelings), we are missing our target which is every person we will ever meet. We are often more concerned with whether or not someone deserves our love, and that is a question that we were never supposed to ask.
In a commentary on Ephesians 4-7 from knowing-jesus.com, I’ve summarized the following:
The point of grace is NOT giving people what they deserve. For example: instead of killing us all off because of our sin, God showed us grace by giving us a mediator and redeemer through His word which is Jesus Christ. This is our best example of grace.
The most important component of love is forgivenessEach of us, having been saved by grace, have a personal responsibility to be gracious – that is, our behavior should always be that which honors God and our positions as ambassadors of the new covenant who is…you guessed it…Jesus.
By grace, we are to demonstrate tolerance and humility of mind to one another and to do so in Godly love. We are to make allowances for each other’s short-comings and to be diligent to uphold the unity of the Spirit as shown to us by Jesus in His life, death, and resurrection.
We are to bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, and endure all things (2 Corinthians 13:7) for Christ’s sake. And by God’s grace, we are to bind our hearts together in love for the honor and glory of God. To be clear, our brothers and sisters in Christ are not the only ones we are to bear in love. Otherwise, God would have given us explicit instructions on just who to exclude.
Grace must be received in humility, carried securely, and shared liberally…without reservation.
Love and grace: these two things create the vehicle that leads us to forgiveness, and forgiveness is the gas in the engine that will drive us straight into unity.
You see, before there can be any unity, there must first be reconciliation. To do that, love and grace must be applied with a very heavy hand. This reconciliation is so important to our healing as a nation because we can only really succeed together – united, if you will.
Unity is a thing that should happen because of diversity, not in spite of it. Our differences play a large part in what makes this life worth living. Our strengths are supposed to cover the weaknesses of others, not point them out or make weapons of them to validate our personal perspectives.
Forgiveness – the asking of and giving of forgiveness is going to have more effect than any policy change or new law. We are already under the new law, right – the new covenant fulfilled by Jesus’ love for us…?
If we are obeying the commandments to love God and to love our neighbors, we will become less concerned with another person’s religion, political affiliation, lifestyle choice, or any other easy surface target to, instead, become more mindful of the life struggles we all must endure (differently, of course) and allow ourselves to simply love people right where they are and let God handle the rest.
The way of this unity is to realize the value of every human life – to acknowledge that if God had no purpose for a person, He would not have bothered to create them. Our failures to see, acknowledge, and respect the value in others we don’t agree with, understand, or like actually hinders the building of great and marvelous things that we could all be benefitting from. We should all be setting places at our tables for these values.
LOVE + GRACE = UNITY
My dears, there is a difference between feeling welcome and being made to feel as if you are at home. It is the extension of both love and grace that creates this distinction.
My exhortation to us all is that we ask ourselves in every encounter (good, bad, uncomfortable…hostile even), “Am I just letting this person in my space, or am I offering them a seat at my table?” To get to this question, we might first ask, “Am I just pandering to this person with lip service, or is my heart breaking for them?”
Every person we encounter – no matter how new, old, endearing, or irritating the relationship – is precious cargo. I’m sure we could all easily think of people who might be the exception, but Jesus never thought so, and I can prove it. John 1 says that in the beginning was the Word (Jesus is the Word), and goes on to say that nothing that was made was made without Him. This includes the human being – you, your family members, friends, acquaintances…enemies…
Being as God creates nothing without a purpose, let me repeat this: if the people we disagree with, don’t like, or are disgusted by had no value in the eyes and kingdom of God, they simply would not exist.
As we all do, in fact, exist, we have to acknowledge that intelligent and intentional design in all of us – that we each consist of heart, mind, body, and spirit. More importantly, each of those pieces are so easily broken. So, as careful as we would like others to handle us when we are not at our best, we – as ambassadors of Christ – owe that same care to the world.
There is no other way to care for this bruised and hurting world than to love it with all our hearts, all our minds, all our strengths, and with all our unified might. We don’t have to make it fancy, and we don’t need a global stage. All we need is to be willing to speak, smile, know, and reach for those right here in our own backyards.God bless you, and may His love lead you to those in need of the grace we all so desperately desire. This love will be hard, but it will be worth it.