There was a time in my Christian life when I thought I had my priorities straight. I didn’t drink or smoke, (I still don’t). I don’t party, sleep around, and hang out with the “wrong people”. I’m too self-absorbed to gossip and involve myself in other people’s affairs. I study my Bible, pray every day, go to church every Sunday, and tithe.
On the surface, that’s kind of impressive (or disturbing, depending on how you feel about God, Jesus, and the Christian faith). I have a list of things that make me appear to be a “good Christian”. Lately I have been feeling as though being a Christian is considerably more than following a set list of rules and regulations. It is more than having the ability to heal and to prophesy. It is more than having a position of prestige and honour. It is more than gathering in church once a week, being preached the word of God, and not having it impact our lives in any way.
When I made the decision to choose Jesus, for better or for worse, I chose to give up my right to do things my way. I gave up my right to have my own agenda. I gave up my right to promote myself, seek glory for myself, and step on anyone who got in my way. Christians aren’t meant to be uniform. We have differences, and we should respect them. But there also has to be a unity of purpose, and a unity of spirit. That won’t happen if everyone is too in love with their ambitions to neglect seeking God first.
When we seek God first, everything we need will be added to our lives. The greatest commandment in the Bible is to love the Lord with all of our soul, heart, mind, and strength, and love our neighbour as we love ourselves. When you truly love someone, you want them to have the same things you have. You care about their well-being. You want them to be happy, and peaceful, and you don’t want to see them hurt.
Yet, we Christians fail to show genuine love to people whom we believe to be inferior to us. You know, “I love you…as long as you’re not liberal”. “I love you…unless you’re black/white/Latino”, “I love you…unless you’re poor”. “I love you, but not if you’re gay”. “I love you as long as you’re wearing designer clothes.” Some of us even use the word of God to absolve us of any responsibility of following this commandment. We make excuses for our behaviour because it’s easier to love the people who look like us, think like us, and believe the same things we do.
If every tree is known by its fruit, so we, the Christians are known by our love. Don’t get me wrong, love doesn’t mean you have to smile beatifically while people step all over you. It doesn’t mean compromising your beliefs, or letting people intimidate you. It means that, above all, we treat people the way we want to be treated.
We are called Christians because we are supposed to reflect the behaviour and attitude of Christ. In John 13, Jesus washed his disciples’ feet. He was their leader, so he didn’t have to do it, but with this simple act of humility, Jesus was showing them the pattern he wanted them to follow. They were all valuable members of his team, and they were to treat one another the same way he treated them.
Sometimes, we get so caught up in our positions, callings, and accolades that we think of ourselves as more important than we ought to. It’s true that we are all important. However, not everyone can be the chief, the captain, or the quarterback. And while being a leader makes you more culpable, but it still doesn’t mean you’re better than the people you lead. The only one who had a legitimate claim to that status was Jesus, but even he didn’t take it. He always placed others before himself, even to his death. If you’re not willing to do the same, you’re probably in the wrong faith.
At this point in my life, I’m looking to simplify everything that I have made complicated. Following all the rules, being associated with the right people, and subscribing to the correct political agenda don’t mean anything if I don’t have love. Unconditional love is the foundation upon which our faith rests. Without it, every other gift, calling, or affiliation is rendered ineffective.
How can I fight to protect someone I don’t love? How can I teach someone I don’t love? How can I effectively lead someone I don’t love?
I don’t claim to have all the answers. Actually, I think you’ll find that I have very few. What I do know is that, as a body, our standard of care has been too low. In the past, Christians founded schools to educate the poor. They set up soup kitchens to feed them, shelters to house them. They helped slaves escape to freedom, and took care of widows and orphans.
We need to start caring again. If we don’t care, we have nothing real to offer. No one wants to hear a message of love from someone who doesn’t love them. If we want to be real agents of change in this world, we need to get the love back in our churches. Not to appear holy to one another, but to follow the lead of the dude who died to save us.
In case you’re wondering, it is possible to love someone you don’t like. All you have to do is take your human blinders off and remember that Jesus died to save them too. He loves them, even though they don’t believe in him, and if they’re good enough for God to love, we’re no different.
As a Christian, your first priority is to love the Lord with your soul, heart, mind, and strength. The second is to love your neighbour as you love yourself. When you follow those two, you’ll gain access to everything you need to live life as a successful (albeit, imperfect) Christian.
On the contrary, if decide that loving others unconditionally isn’t your thing, you will only be effective for a while. Then you won’t be, and wonder why. You’ll most likely blame someone else because you don’t see how it could be your fault. You will spend the rest of your life being mediocre because you never quite figured out that the most powerful weapon in your possession is how you love other people.
Think about it.