31 When (Judas) was gone, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him.32 If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.
33 “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come.
34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together.35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question:36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’38 This is the first and greatest commandment.39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.‘40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
These rules, set in place by Jesus of Nazareth are to be the most important rules Christians follow. And there are many other rules that came from Jesus’ most devoted followers. For example:
9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
Love is one of the most successful motivators. Love encourages us. Love breaks down walls. Love heals us. Love sustains us.
At my church (and many others), we sing a hymn titled “They’ll Know We Are Christians (By Our Love).” I know that there are others who take issue with this idea: that someone can tell I am a Christian because of how I love others. Does that mean that Jews do not love? That Muslims do not love? Do people of other faiths love their neighbors any differently than Christians do? Love is not unique to Christianity. So I’m ignoring that the song seems to suggest that Christian love is different than love from a non-Christian, and instead I’m trying to look at it a different way. Perhaps it is reminding Christians that love is an element that can bring people to know Christ and to know God. If I follow that thought, then it leads to the conclusion that in order to help draw people to Christianity, I need to love them. Simple enough.
But not really. There are some Christians who “love the sinner, hate the sin.” This seems to me like a backhanded insult, that the Christian does not love the whole person, but instead they love who they, the Christian, want the “sinner” to be. You can’t only love someone’s potential, you have to love their reality, too. That’s like saying “I love the thin person inside of you.” This idea is not love, it is simply tolerance. Love is accepting, not tolerating. Since the beginning of mankind, intolerance of differences have posed a problem. But with knowledge, kindess and love, differences can be seen as assets and intolerance can turn into mutual respect. Why we haven’t learned that yet as human beings I just can’t understand. And no matter who we are, believers or not, we need to stand up and say, “This is not acceptable.”
It seems that Christianity is getting a bad rap. The loudest supporters of Christianity, the people who get all the media coverage are those who do not show love. Instead they show hate and intolerance. Not every Christian shows hate and intolerance and not every denomination of Christianity shows them either. But those are the ones that infuriate people who do show love, and therefore those Christians are the ones we hear about most. We don’t often hear about the Christians who love and accept.
Those of us, Christian or not, who oppose closed-mindedness and injustice in the world try to spread love, but I wonder how many people who need love the most actually hear us. We can re-post cute sayings and stark images all we want, but those who do not love the way we want them to usually don’t pay attention to what we have to say because we are “the sinner” they are trying to reach, thus rendering our words pointless. A recent photo going around Facebook is of two characters from Modern Family. The two male characters are life partners and they are holding up a sign that reads “How could you NOT want to see us tie the knot?” It’s a very nice idea, but here’s the thing: the people who oppose gay marriage likely don’t watch Modern Family because it deals with gay characters. So, A: that picture isn’t going to reach people who really need to see it, and B: that picture doesn’t really spread love. Don’t get me wrong, I’m against Prop 8 whole-heartedly. I just don’t think reposting a picture without a personal testamonial is going to change someone’s mind.
I’m all for trying to open a closed mind, but that is not really my objective here. What I want this post to say is: Not all Christians are closed.
I am a Christian. I am a straight Christian. I am a lifelong Christian. And I am loving. I attend a congregation that is Open and Affirming; we welcome gay, lesbian, and bisexual members. And by welcome I mean welcome. We don’t just “say” we like all people, we really do. We have gay lay leaders and gay ministers in our congregation. We don’t like people just for who we want them to be, we love them for who they are. Or were. Or want to be. That is love. We embrace differences so much so that we don’t single people out for their ethinicity, their background (religious or personal), their sexual orientation or their gender. We have female and male ministers and leaders. We have worship services led by people from all walks of life and all ages; two of our more popular services are the one led by the children and the one led by the youth. We have sermons based on scripture, on life experience, on movies, on books. We get involved in righting social injustice. We welcome all visitors and guests. We embrace other religions rather than condemn them. We love each other.
Love needs to be heard. Love needs to be louder than hate. Love needs to be louder than just tolerance.
I am a Christian and I love all people.
I only hope that more loving Christians will stand up and be loud, too.
If you are looking for a church that is Open and Affirming, click here to see a WORLDWIDE directory; there are over 6,800 churches that are gay friendly. “Affirming” means that the church does not view homosexuality in and of itself as a sin and therefore they would welcome and treat a homosexual person no differently than any other person who walked through their church doors seeking Christ.