Dear Brothers & Sisters,
(Before you continue on, please understand my heart. This is not intended to be a personal attack on anyone. If you interpret it as such, please accept my apology in advance. It’s simply a call for us each to examine our own hearts. I pray the message I’ve intended is the message that you hear…)
On the eve of quite possibly the most divisive election in our country’s history, I chose to spend the evening the best way I could imagine, considering the current climate – surrounded by my church family… Loving each other and reminding each other that regardless of political outcomes, our God still reigns. Reminding each other that He works ALL things to good and He will do so again… even if the only good to come of this is that we desperately turn back to Him. My church is centered on one message: Always only Jesus. It’s the most racially, socially, generationally, geographically diverse group of incredible, loving people I’ve ever been involved with. People who believe in the mission to be the hands and feet of Jesus. People who believe in the message of love over any and everything else. People who know we’re all broken and flawed and so we try to show each other empathy because we’re all fighting individual battles. So while I sat in a room with a group of beautiful people, none of whom look like me, and we talked about healing, what we just couldn’t wrap our minds around – the thing that so deeply hurt us – is the massive gap between the Jesus we know and love and the actions of so many people around our country who say they know and love Him.
This gap I’ve seen widen over the last several months has left me confused, saddened, heart-broken, and with questions for people who say they believe in the same Jesus I believe in. Is my Jesus the same as yours? Would He want us criticizing and condemning each other for our differences and choices? Or would He want us living out love the best way we know how? Would He want us treating people poorly because they have different ideologies? Or would He want us to be vessels of His love to draw more people to Him? Would He want us making globally impactful decisions motivated by fear? Or would He want us to pay attention to the 100+ times that the Bible says NOT to fear? Would he want our words to be negative and divisive, critical and demoralizing? Or would He want us to speak life, love, hope and possibility into friends and strangers alike? If we’re in the business of winning souls, is there any other way to do that than by loving people? If love and fearlessness are His language, why does it look like so many people who say they love Jesus have voted for hate and fear? Do you and I even know the same guy?
The whole entire point of Jesus is that we mess up. We can’t do this life thing on our own. We ALL fall short of the glory of God and need holy flawless righteousness in order to be in His presence. Isn’t the entire message of Christianity that we’re all sinners in need of a Savior? The Bible says whoever should believe in Him will not perish but will have everlasting life. PERIOD. (John 3:15) His Word didn’t go on to say you have to earn your way through works. It didn’t go on to say if you don’t change your ways immediately, your ticket to Heaven is null and void. No, it went on to say that He loved you and me and everyone who ever has or will live on this planet so much that sent His Son to die for us, to take our due punishment. He loved us so much that He stood in our place just so we could have the opportunity to stand with Him.
The beauty of His unending mercy and grace is that once you’re His, you’re never not His. It doesn’t matter how many times you stumble, how many mistakes you make, what your past looks like, nor the sins you’re sure to make in the future. He still forgives you, loves you, welcomes you, and guarantees you a seat in the throne room of God. His mercies are new every single day. What a beautiful, undeserved gift! But here’s the kicker. Here’s the message it feels like so many people who call themselves Christians seem to be missing… That truth is true for EVERY believer. Your salvation can’t be revoked with a sin, a crime, a stumble, nor a vote. AND NEITHER CAN ANYONE ELSE’S.
Jesus said the single most important lesson for us to learn is LOVE. (Matt 22:38) In fact, He didn’t teach us to love. He COMMANDED us to love. Love God above all and people over everything. People over money. People over profit. People over politics. People over personal gain.
Paul even went on to define LOVE for us: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres... (1 Corinth 13) I believe EMPATHY is what He asks of us.
With all of that in mind, here is a list of all the people Jesus loves:
ALL. PEOPLE. PERIOD.
That includes but is not limited to the following:
Gay people who want to get married
Gay people who want to adopt children
Poor people on government assistance
Corrupt rich people who pimp the system for personal gain
Hypocritical church people
Men who cheat on their pregnant wives
Men who beat women
Men who abandon their children
Women who have children out of wedlock
Women who have abortions
Women who use their children as pawns
Mothers who abuse their children
Passive aggressive people
People who post annoying things on Facebook
Muslims (yes, Muslims)
Atheists (yep, He loves them even if they don’t love Him)
Mentally ill people
People who take advantage of the elderly and disabled
ALL. OF. THE. PEOPLE.
(Luckily for a lot of us, even judgmental people make the list)
A list of people Jesus chose to specify as having a special place in His heart:
The religiously uneducated or undereducated
The people that the church rejected
And those who seek Him first.
And He specifically condemned the religious elite – Those who use religion as an excuse to elevate themselves above others. He warned against using God as an excuse to do anything other than love people. (Matt 23)
You or I may not love all of these people, but God does. He loves you with all your baggage & He loves them with theirs. He loves us with all of our flaws and faults and then loves us too much to leave us that way. What if we started seeing people the way Jesus sees them? What if we started loving people the way Jesus loves them? What if we just focused on getting the plank out of our own eye before pointing out the splinter in someone else’s? What if we were more concerned with humanitarian interests than economic interests?What if we started to love others the way Jesus loves us? Isn’t that what we’re called to do?Do you know Him? Do you really know His character? What if He’s calling you to stop pointing out the flaws in others and let Him do a work in you?
We don’t win people over with religiosity or judgment. We win souls with LOVE. LOVE PEOPLE. And when you don’t feel like you have any love to give, pray and let God do the heavy lifting. Maybe ask Him to do a work on your heart if you’re having a hard time loving people. It’s not our job to try to change people into versions of themselves that are easier for us to digest. It’s not our job to decide for anyone else how they should be living their lives. Just love people. And let God do the work that only He is qualified to do. I do believe He will make good out of what may seem bleak and disheartening. And I still believe and will always believe that love trumps hate.