I love Jesus.
I mean, duh. I am a christian, I am saved. And if it is really true- he gave his life for me, well then, duh, of course I love Jesus.
For quite some time now my prayers have been along this line: Lord, I love you and I want to know you more.
And I have been very happy at his answers. He has taught me so much about who He is, and what He is like, and the more I know, the more I love him! He is so good, and so kind, and so loving to me, I can’t help but love him.
Recently I was thinking about Jesus coming to earth and choosing to die for us, and about how we are all the ones screaming “Crucify Him!” even while he dies for us. I don’t really fully comprehend it, but I wish I did, because I think if I could really grasp it, I would love him even more.
But while I was thinking of that, and my own… lack of gratitude, I also started having this other issue:
I don’t like people.
Though I have so enjoyed the mercy and grace and joy I have found in the Savior, the truth is that I go into my community and find lots of people who are, well, not like Christ. And because of their imperfections, I have found plenty of reasons to not enjoy them.
In fact, I guess I could say I have hated them.
Okay, hate MIGHT be a strong word. But hear me out.
What if hatred is not doing evil. It’s just… withholding love.
It is a strong line to draw- I mean, it is much easier to place hatred on a scale. Like this:
There are people I’m crazy about,
people I enjoy,
people I tolerate,
people I kinda avoid.
People I realllllly avoid.
People I would wish evil on.
People I would DO evil to. These are the people I hate.
That’s a much nicer scale, don’t you think? If that is the scale, well, then, I don’t hate anyone! I wouldn’t do evil to anyone! I can give myself a pat on the back!
But… what if there is no scale. What if it’s just people I love, and am loving towards, and people I don’t love, and don’t “do” love to.
I heard a speaker recently who said, “If there is anyone in your church building that you would not choose to sit next to, you have a problem.”
This is uncomfortable. I mean, aren’t I allowed to dislike a few people?
Okay, maybe I am not allowed to dislike them. But what if I am kind to them on the outside, but on the inside, I’m rolling my eyes. What if I am nice when I see them but I would prefer not to see them? Is that okay?
And then I think of Jesus. Jesus loves me. He is so good to me. I just want more and more and more of Jesus. I want to know what he’s like, because the more I know him, the more I find things I like about him!
Here’s me, praying, “Okay, Jesus! It’s you and me! I love you so much, and if I can just be alone with you all the time, that would be perfect. Those other people can really get on my nerves.”
And here is Jesus:
You want to know me, Brianna? Let me tell you about me. I love you, and I died for you.
And I love them, and I died for them.
I feel like I had this huge moment where I just suddenly realized this fact that everyone has known forever:
Jesus. loves. people.
JESUS LOVES PEOPLE! GOD LOVES THE WORLD! THE WHOLE WORLD! LIKE- ALL THOSE PEOPLE I DON’T LOVE!
Okay, I’m calmed down.
But seriously, he turned me around by the shoulders and pointed to everyone else, and I knew: the most important thing for me to learn about Jesus- is that he loves them.
And if I want to be like him, if I want to know him more- I have to love them, too.
Not hate. Not even a little.
You know in Matthew 24, Jesus is talking about the end times. And lots of times, people will think of the end times in terms of signs in the sky, and wars, and disasters, and the mark of the beast. But do you know one thing we forget easily?
…At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another... Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold.
Doesn’t that strike a chord a little? As you read this, are you suddenly remembering far too many people, or maybe one particular person, that you really don’t want to have to love?
But if you are anything like me, you probably love Jesus, too, don’t you? And the more you learn about him, the more you like him, don’t you? And don’t you ever look around your church and think… Man. If only our church was… more like Christ. It sure seems like we are missing something.
If you think this at all, I wonder if the thing you are missing is the same thing I am- many of us are missing- love.
I’ve been thinking about what it would take to love, to really love, everyone I know. Not only the people I enjoy, the people who love me, or the people who I feel need or deserve love… but everyone.
The people who irritate me or just aren’t my style. The people who have a sense of humor I don’t enjoy, or bodily habits I find slightly gross.
The people who don’t love me- aren’t kind to me or considerate. The people who reject me, who ridicule me, who despise me.
The people who ignore me or frustrate me. The people who forget me and devalue me. The people who disagree with me and contradict me, call me names or adjectives. The people who actively work against me- or against my family or children or the things I believe in.
What would it look like for me to love them? Really, truly love them?
I suspect it would look a lot like Jesus, hanging on a cross, dying for people who were screaming, “Crucify him!”
Can you imagine if this week, when you went to church, there wasn’t anyone, not anyone- that you kind hoped you didn’t have to talk to? And can you even fathom a Sunday when we went to church and none of us – NONE of us- withheld love from anyone else?
What would that look like? What would our churches be like if we didn’t tolerate any hatred in ourselves? If we were committed to unreserved, extravagant, unmerited love- the same kind we receive from the Lord?
Maybe it would look a lot like, “They will know you are Christians by your love.”
Maybe it would look like a church full of little Christs.
Maybe, just maybe… the reason why the church is lacking in life is because we are lacking in love.
I love Jesus. I am so, so thankful for his goodness towards me. And I guess… When I think about how much he loves me, and then I look out towards you, I am more convinced all the time that he wants me to love you, too. He isn’t pleased by me doing evil to you- or withholding good from you. He doesn’t like it if I complain about you or ignore you or just plain don’t prefer to be around you. He wants me to love you, like he loves you. Like he loves me.
I love Jesus, and I love you, too.