1 John 4:20
“4 If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.”
The heart of it all, the winnowing stick, the litmus test, the no room for discussion, the no gray area of Christ, of God. If you don’t love your brother, you cannot love God. Words used to describe in a derogatory, hateful way are a window into your heart. Descriptive, stereotyping, hateful words common to all of us even if we don’t admit it show us a lot about ourselves and the world. Hello Westboro Baptist Church, your message is wrong. Hello tolerance movement, your hate is wrong. Hello me, I’m thinking wrong. How about you?
I came to understand how Christ called me to love those I used to hate about six years ago. Sadly, I had spent most of my life hating first, not loving first, and the transition has been far too slow. Just like forgiveness (since God forgives me who am I to not forgive myself?), so is love. If God loves me so much he sent his only son to die for my sins so that I might be saved, who am I to take that blessing yet still hate? If you proclaim Christ there are no options. Hate the sin, not the sinner is more than a pithy statement, it’s a command from God.
In today’s western culture of “acceptance” and “tolerance”, love should be the core, not the ideology being promoted. The acceptance and tolerance crowd use those words to bully; the words are a club used to beat whomever into submission. That’s not love, that’s hateful, intolerant violence. Christ calls us to be the light and to do so requires love.
Where does your heart lie? My heart has moved off hate towards love (no, I’m not at all perfect and still sin like the sinner I am, so yes, I still catch myself thinking like a hater at times and have to clean that up). How about your heart? Do you love all at all times like Christ loves us? I used to think people in jail/prison deserved to be there – lock ’em up and throw away the key. I found out how wrong my disdain, revulsion, and arrogance were when God led me to prison ministry and then mentoring inmates/ex-inmates. It’s a fundamental paradigm shift, brand new eyes to look upon the world with. It’s to look at the world out of love, not disdain; to look at sin out of love, not revulsion; to look the broken out of love, not arrogance – and more.
How wrong I’ve been for so long. How about you? Do you respond to being called a hateful, intolerant bigot with love or hate? Do you respond to violence with love or hate? Do you respond to sin with love or hate?
The world hates the sinner and loves the sin; God loves the sinner and hates the sin. We are commanded to do the same. Where are you on the path?
To love like Christ loves us is the narrow path. To approach the world in love is liberating and it untethers us from the constraint of hate. To approach the day in love frees you to approach the day in joy.
Be in the world but not of the world like Christ taught us. Surrender your hate and take another step toward the cross. Love everything and everyone like Christ loves us. In love be bold like Christ calls us to be. Be the wheat, not the chaf.