23 March 2014

Love ... Really?

Hello, call me the fool.1   

Since the Bible says so, some would say: "God is love."2  That that's all fine and good for those who believe in the Bible. It's nice that they consider the god in the book to be love. My experience with both the Bible and its god is a little different. For me, there is more hatred than love portrayed there; but not only portrayed in the Bible, but taught in many churches. 

You might argue and say, "I have never heard anyone teach or preach hatred in my church." And I hope you never do.  But, if you do, run from there like your butt's on fire. No, the teaching is with actions; with little innuendos: "We're better than 'those people,' those atheists, those drug addicts, those alcoholics." That's what is said with body language and unconscious vocabulary. I know, because I was once like this myself (I have to say, in my defense, that it was not intentional--but, nevertheless, I was guilty).  Aloud, you may hear something like: "We love them; we accept them, even as Jesus accepted us." But then, listen

You'll probably hear something not unlike this: "We just have to tolerate them until they grow (i.e. learn to think and believe as we do)."  Or: "We love the sinner, but not the sin."  That is a sneaky form of prejudice; it gives us a way to avoid the very people we are supposedly supposed to love.  It's a prejudice to which most people, especially those who believe themselves to be "chosen," will not consciously or readily admit (I'm sad to have to admit, again, I know this first-hand).  You may say: "I'm not like that.  And neither is anyone else in my church.  We really do love people."  I hope you're not like that.  I hope you and all the people in your church really do love people (e.g. esp. the "unlovable").  If you are like that, you are rare and that is beautiful.  I appreciate you!

For those not in that minority, those who are more like I was, my question is: Is that really love? Can I love people without being around them and being willing to get my hands dirty?  I'm not saying it's necessary to engage in immoral behavior in order to show our love, but often what we do is: we completely avoid those whom we claim to love.  And behavior toward the "loved" ones is stand-offish and squeamish and doesn't quite come across as love, but rather as disgust....

The Bible teaches that we should love all, in action not only in word: 

Matthew 25.35-40; 42-46 (KJV):

35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: 
36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. 
37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? 
38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? 
39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? 
40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:
43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.
44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?
45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.
46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
These are ideals to which anyone, Christian or not, can aspire.  If you're an unbeliever, just realize that you're doing this will not win you any brownie-points.  If you are a believer, then this should be the life you strive to live anyway, simply based on Jesus's teaching. 

To make this practical we can ask ourselves regularly: "Am I showing love to people around me; to strangers; to 'scary' people; to mean people; to people who will probably not love me in return; and not only when someone is watching me, and not hoping for a reward or a prize or even a simple pat on the back and an 'at-a-boy'?"

^1. Psalm 14.1
^2. 1 John 4:8, in case you're wondering. You're welcome.

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