Yesterday, I reminded you of the very reassuring reality that God loves you. Today, I think it’s time to look at the same truth from a different angle – God loves everyone else, too.
That’s a very pleasant sentiment on the surface, but it has some unsettling implications.
First of all, it’s important to remember that God loves the people we dislike, avoid and fear.
The foreign despot who mistreats his people, the knuckle-dragging lowlife from across the street who neglects his wife, the pre-pubescent bully who picks on your kid and even the Office Jerk who won’t stop clicking his pen during meetings. (Every office is issued at least one jerk, by the way. If you don’t know who yours is, it might be you.)
God loves them all, just as much as He loves you.
In William P. Young’s book, The Shack, God says the phrase, ‘I’m particularly fond of him/her’ whenever He talks about anyone.
(I’m not a big fan, generally, of the practice of making God a character in ‘spiritual fiction’ books and movies [there’s a real danger of us making Him in our own image, I think], but in this instance, Young is bang-on.)
The second unsettling implication is that we’re called to love the people that God loves. Not tolerate. Love.
In Matthew 22:36-40, Jesus tells us that the greatest commandment is to love God with all that we are, and to love our neighbors as ourselves.
Then, in Luke 10, when an expert in the law asks Him, ‘And who is my neighbor?’ Jesus tells the Parable of the Good Samaritan.
This story has so impacted our culture that nowadays, the word ‘samaritan’ has come to mean ‘someone who drops everything to come to the aid of a stranger’. But in the days of Jesus, Samaritan was an ethnicity that Jews reviled and avoided at all costs. If Jesus’ ministry had happened in the United States in the 1950s, He might have told the Parable of the Good Communist.
The parable not only shows us who our neighbors are, but how we go about loving them as ourselves. The Samaritan set aside his own agenda, and sacrificed his time, money and maybe reputation to care for a total stranger.
That’s love in action.
And if that’s not difficult enough, Jesus goes further. In Matthew 5:43-48, He commands us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.
“If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
But Baldy, how can Jesus demand perfection, when a huge part of the reason He came and lived and suffered and died was because humans (other than Him) are incapable of perfection?
I think perhaps He doesn’t require us to arrive at perfection, but to earnestly and honestly strive for it.
So how’s that going for you? Are you better at loving your neighbors and enemies today than you were yesterday?
Peace be with you.