Everyone has a story. Followers of Jesus have a unique one…ours is a story of faith, light, grace, beauty, love. All working together for redemption, which is God’s goal for humanity. Not a story of happiness and easiness, or apathy and America, but of world-wide joy in the middle of the terrible pain we face in a broken world. The most important to me is the story of love.
Without love, all is lost. If God hadn’t chosen to love a people who rejected him, and did everything we could to not deserve his love, we would still be without hope. Jesus was of course the ultimate example: and he told us that this is love, to lay down one’s own life for a friend.
But who is my friend? Who is my neighbor? Am I willing to lay down my life…
Because laying down my life doesn’t have to mean dying the death of a martyr. Laying down my life in love is a much simpler, but far more difficult process of choosing to humble myself every day. To that one person who drives you nuts, the lady at church whose gossiping makes you cringe, the person who cut in front of you on the road, and that grumpy man at the store who ruined your day. And even worse for today’s falsely religious “Christian”; to the gothic girl who cuts herself, the pregnant teenager, or the gay man in your class. But in God’s eyes you are no better than any of the human beings that you consider somehow beneath you. We are all equal before him and equally loved. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, man nor woman.
I, however, am so often guilty of a subtle and dangerous hypocrisy…much like the smug Pharisee who prayed “Thank you God, that I’m not like that person.” This is a destructive way to go about living and brings no benefit to the kingdom of God. And all-too-many churches these days are guilty of the same thing. So concerned with going to battle over doctrine or rejoicing in the fact that “we’re not like them…” that we forget the reason we came.
To quote Sarah Bessey (from Jesus Feminist, pg. 105)–
“No formula, no method makes me feel so fully human and alive as the radical act of living loved. Once you taste Love, you are ruined for the empty shells of religious performance and conditions, like going back to fast food after a home-cooked meal.”
Our deeds and words are hollow if not infused with love, and particularly this love that is stronger than we are capable of mustering as mere humans. And “living loved,” as Bessey puts it, means more than just loving on others; it means living with the confidence and assurance that we ourselves have been loved and adopted into the family.
At the end of the day; either I loved my neighbor or I didn’t. God loves me regardless, and I don’t have to do good deeds to earn that…but if I’m being a good steward of what he’s giving me, then it should matter how I choose to go about my day, and whether or not I do it in his name. And he is Love.