There’s a reason people hate Christians. They think the religion is a to-don’t list: don’t curse, don’t drink, don’t have sex, don’t associate with the heathens. And maybe the religion, the system, is. But the faith is another thing entirely. It is a belief in a God that loves and shows us how to love. That is his mandate: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.'”
So what is love?
Love is a very convoluted thing. Most people don’t have a very clear definition. Nicholas Sparks, possibly one of the most influential people in how young women perceive love, writes in A Walk to Remember that “Love is like the wind, you can’t see it but you can feel it.” Social media says love is a change in Facebook status, a “#mcm” and a name in an Instagram bio, a picture of you and “bae”. The movies say love is a kiss in the rain. Culture says love is something that you give in order to get. Society says that it lasts for awhile, but if you’re not happy you should just get a divorce.
None of these things are love. Love is a choice.
It is a choice to put someone else above yourself, to consider someone else’s needs above your own. It is a lifestyle of selflessness, not selfishness. In a world that socially exhibits Darwin’s concept of survival of the fittest at the expense of the weak, this is not a natural concept. Self-gratification is the end goal. Marriage exists to make you happy, and when it doesn’t, then a divorce lawyer makes his paycheck. Your needs, wants, desires, and even whims come before anyone else’s. And who can blame you? Take care of Number One first, right?
Wrong. Love means you come last.
Last. Not a very popular position nowadays. And last doesn’t mean second. It doesn’t mean only after your family. It means after everyone. That means your neighbor. That means the poor girl at Starbucks who put whipped cream on your NO WHIP Low-fat Double Chocolaty Chip Creme Frappuccino. That means that boy who broke up with you. That means that girl who talked bad about you in middle school. That means criminals. That means the sinners. That means, heaven forbid among the church, gay people.
Love doesn’t count the cost.
Cost isn’t just money. It’s time. It’s pride. It’s effort. It’s giving of yourself. Love requires a sacrifice. It requires you intentionally forfeiting your comfort, your best interests, your selfish desires, and putting someone else’s needs first. And yeah, it costs. So what value do you put on people? Are they worth what you have to give up? Hmmm. Is that girl’s morning at Starbucks worth the 30 seconds it’ll take you to scrape some whipped cream off? Is that prisoner’s life worth letting go of your anger at his crimes? Is that gay person’s soul worth giving up your condescension?
Jesus thought my soul was. He thought everybody else’s was, too.
I was a sinner. I messed up. I, in all my filth, my undeserving wretchedness, was a screw-up. And he saw fit to die for me. The cost was his life, and he paid it. He thought I was worth it. He loved me that much. He chose to ignore his physical needs and sacrifice himself for me. So how is it that I think I can choose who is worth my love? I can’t. Jesus died for everyone. He died for every single person I have ever met, ever come into contact with. He loved them, and he calls me to love them too. Every. Single. Person. Now that’s a revolutionary Christianity.
Christianity is a call to love people, not a reason to judge them.
This is our mandate: to show people the love of Christ, not to tell them they need to clean up their act. Judging lost people for their sins, telling them they need to fix themselves, is contradicting the entire message of the Gospel. This teaches people that they need to become righteous to be accepted by God and that they have to obtain right standing by themselves. It teaches them that they have to be deserving of his love, when instead we should be loving them no matter what they do, what they look like, what their sexual orientation is, or how they choose to respond to that love. This is love: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Though they are still sinners (just like us), we need to demonstrate our love for them.
Christ was willing to die on the cross for you. How far are you willing to go to show love to someone else?
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” – John 13:34-35