Friday, March 23, 2012

Why Is It Important To Love Our Neighbors?

A couple of posts ago, I wrote about loving, not judging, our neighbors.  Now, I'm sure some of you thought I plunged off the liberal deep end.  (Side note: I completely dislike the words conservative and liberal because they conjure up too many emotions and we use them within our own contexts but others may interpret our intended meanings in a completely different context.  However, that discussion will have to wait until another day.)  My main thought while jamming out that post was that others should know we are Christians by the way we love each other.  You know, good 'ole John 13:35.  That is what Scripture tells us.  However, it is unfortunate that one of the first things people think of when you say "Christian" is judgmental.  Not loving, compassionate, or humble.  Judgmental.  Let that sink in.  

As I mentioned in my previous post, I think a lot of Christians are fearful of truly loving others who have beliefs, political persuasions, lifestyles, or religions that differ from their own because they believe that will either (1) somehow negate the truth of the gospel or (2) cause a free-for-all anything goes lax society where sinful behavior becomes the norm.  However, I would like to challenge those thoughts.  First, if we believe the gospel is the truth and that Jesus is the way, and I wholeheartedly do, there is nothing that can change or even put in a dent in that unwavering truth.  He always was and always will be the truth.  Simply loving someone whom you may not agree with does not change the message of the gospel.  Second, if you take a quick look back throughout history, there have been many periods where society and those claiming the Christian faith, including the state owned churches at various points, have displayed just as much, if not more, perverse and lax behaviors as we do today.  That may be hard to believe, but it is true.  Finally, Christians are always talking about reaching the unchurched.  How do we reach the unchurched?  How do we invite them and welcome them into our church families?  Well, being judgmental and hypocritical is certainly not going to reach people who are already skeptical of organized religion.  

So, why is it important to love and not judge?  Well, for one Jesus commanded us to do so.  In addition, he also told us to go and make disciples of all nations.  Furthermore, he told us that by loving one another as he has loved us, the world will know we are his disciples.  So, we are his disciples, our job is make more disciples, and we are to that through loving.  He told us to do it, not (as Francis Chan humorously pointed out in one of his sermons) to talk about it, memorize it, or come up with a five step program on how we might consider loving more.  Jesus said do it!  We are also told that there is one and only one righteous judge (not your or I).  It is simply not our job to convict another of their sin.  God can handle that.  Personally, I think he told us to love and not judge because he knew we couldn't handle the judging part without becoming self-righteous.  If we loved with all the energy that put into judging, how might our lives, our church, and even our society look differently? 

Remember, when we talk about reaching the unchurched, or making disciples, like we are commanded to do, we have to take some initial steps.  If we cannot even commit to loving those who do not personally know the good news of the gospel, are we growing the kingdom or just continuing to bless the blessed?  I am not talking about accountability for those who are already believers, spiritual transformation, dying to self etc.  Those things tend to come later in one's faith journey.  Think about your own faith journey.  For me, there are things the Holy Spirit is currently convicting me of that I had no idea were even hindering my relationship with Christ a few years ago.  That is how I believe sanctification, or becoming more like Christ, works.  Step by step.  Sometimes there are big leaps and bounds, and at other times the process is more gentle and gradual.  However, there is always a starting point. 

Christ died for us while we were still sinners.  My question to you is who do you believe the 'us' is in that verse?   What does that mean to you?  Who might we be ostracizing by our actions or inactions?  Where is there injustice in your community and how can individuals and the local church better show God's love through the way we love each other?  Today, during the course of your daily interactions, I challenge you to extend the love of Christ to one person through an unexpected kind word or action.  I can guarantee you will bless someone's day and in the process be blessed.  

The lyrics to Sidewalk Prophet's song "Live Like That" sum up my convictions on loving our neighbor.  "When they see me, do they see you?"  We are called to show the world the love he gave to us! 

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