He gives one command, short and sweet - Love God with all your heart, soul and mind and to love your neighbor as yourself. That is all he asks and I feel that we are failing miserably and I will tell you why.
I have talked to person after person who has rejected Christianity. Some who grew up in the church, some who did not, but all have, at this point in their lives gone a different direction to find a faith base. When I ask them why they have moved away from Christianity, they tell me it is because of the hypocrisy and judgment they have encountered from the Church and from its Christians. This is a sad, sad state of affairs to me. I cannot help but believe that this is not what Jesus envisioned when he gave that command to love. He never said to love the sinner and hate the sin. In fact that statement, which is bandied about so often, is not found anywhere in biblical text. People who feel it is okay to judge others use it to justify their disdain for others. It is not up to us to assess others, find them wanting and make sure they understand where we stand on their form of sin. Yet all too often, this is what happens in churches and Christian communities all over the place. It happens daily in well meaning communities. We proclaim God’s love, yet fail in our attempts to show it.
I have heard it said - love isn’t love until you give it away. Such a simple statement, full of such truth. It is not enough for us to encounter the love of God in our own lives. It is not enough for us to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. If it were, then Jesus would not have stated the second part of his command, which is to love our neighbor as ourselves. What he was saying was that the love we find in God isn’t complete until we give it away. It has to be extended to those around us in order make the love complete and circle back around. Not only does it have to extend to those around us, but it also it has to be given freely and then received by those to whom we are extending it and then, after we do that, it comes back to us. Mission completed. If we talk about God’s love and what it has done in our lives, yet those around us do not feel it emanating from us, then we have failed in doing as Jesus commanded.
We spend a lot of time making mental lists of things we should avoid. Of course; there are the obvious ones, Murder, Stealing, Lying, and Cheating. Those are no brainers and I think we can agree that we should avoid those behaviors. But, there are others like, Television, Movies, Secular Music, Alcohol, Foul Language, Halloween, Santa, The Easter Bunny….my list could go on and on, that we may feel are too ’Of the World’, so we tack those on to our list of Thou Shalt Nots. We then clench so tightly to our rules that we cannot see how unbending and judgmental we have become. Why? Why do we cling so desperately to rigidity? What are we afraid will happen? What if we unclench and let go of that rod? I do understand the need for rules and boundaries. I am not suggesting letting loose and doing every wrong thing we can think of, that would be foolhardy. I realize there are those who have issues with certain things and in order to stay close to God, they must not engage in those activities. I am not talking about those exceptions. I am talking about simply releasing some of the tension it creates to hold fast to those constraints we place on others and ourselves in some sort of crazy effort to be perfect. I think if we to let some of that tension go, we will have a considerable amount of time and energy to expend on loving people like Jesus commanded us. It will surely bring us a lot closer to the mark we are trying to hit. And in so doing we will encourage more people to explore the wonders those of us who have a relationship with God know is here instead of having them turn elsewhere to find love.