Watch your toes, I’m about to step on them. I’m tired of living in a mental state that is comfortable. I am tired of being content to dream about what I can do someday, yet waiting to act. This world is a wreck, it needs Jesus, and it needs all of us to stop sitting on our hands and do something about it. This is for me as much as it is for all of you.
The early church was characterized by love. While it had its own issues, the love, acceptance, and generosity, that the church exhibited caused it to explode. This love and care was so evident that it confused and distressed the supremacist, polytheistic, and hedonistic Roman society**. Phrases like, “love the sinner, hate the sin” were acted upon, not just shouted. Where has that love gone? Where has the care gone? There are some churches and churchgoers who are actively involved in the work of Christ in this world, but there are many more sitting and pointing fingers. “If only [group of people] did _______ first, then I’d be willing to help,” or, “they should clean up ____, _____, and ____ before they expect help,” or “it’s their own faults that they are going through ______.” You’ve heard the words, you can fill in the blanks. It’s not an abnormal conversation or occurrence.
Jesus did not act like that. Jesus taught us to love. He did not ask people to clean their messes before they followed Him, He invited them to listen, met them where they were standing, and loved them anyway. He challenged them to change their lives, but His love was not contingent on their behavior. We have a tendency to want Jesus’ love for others to be contingent on other people’s actions, but we want free grace for ourselves. We love to quote the verse “take the plank out of your own eye before removing the speck in the eye of your neighbor” … to everyone except ourselves. Is there any wonder that the world considers the church hypocritical and backwards? Perhaps if we started living like Jesus did, that would change.
Perhaps instead of pointing fingers and throwing the Bible at people, we should read it first. Maybe we should read verses like 1 Corinthians 5:12 which states, “What business is it of mine [Paul] to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?” Church discipline and correction should happen, but they should happen within the church to people who claim to follow God but who’s actions say otherwise. That is where we should humbly judge, but not outside the walls of the church where people do not even know the name of Jesus, let alone His commandments.
I’m not saying condone sin, I’m not saying focus so much on love at risk of throwing out the law, and I’m not propagating some sort of new radical thinking. I’m asking, pleading, for you and for me to love better. Instead of using the phrase “love the sinner, hate the sin” let’s just do it. Instead of bringing attention to the good or the bad, let’s just dig into the trenches of Christian life in a broken world. Instead of standing on either sides of life’s battlefield, shouting, screaming, pointing fingers and hurting people, let’s work together. Christ called us to love ALL people–the easy ones to love, and especially the hard ones.
Love your neighbors, your co-workers, your teachers. Love people who look like you, and those who don’t. Love people who think like you, and those who don’t. Love the people in on your street, or the ones who live in the streets. Love the people celebrating the Supreme Court ruling, love the people rioting. Just love, pray, repeat.
After all, Jesus said, ” A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:33-35). I want to be recognizable as a follower of Christ by the way I love other people.
So if I stepped on your toes, I’m not sorry. The gospel was never meant to be comfortable; Jesus calls us to sacrifice and death–not ease. The world is falling apart around our ears, and it’s time for the church to once again be characterized by love and care.
** Footnote: To learn more about the Church in Rome and other awesome early Church history, check out Gerald L. Sittser’s Water from a Deep Well.