At the front of the sanctuary at the church I serve in Lutsen are the words, "We love because he first loved us." This is taken from the beautiful little epistle of 1st John found almost hidden away in the very back of our Bibles.
Love comes in many forms, of course. Sometimes love looks like sacrifice. Sometimes it looks like commitment. Sometimes it’s found in laughter. Other times love is most evident in our tears.
One form of love our culture dissuades us from engaging in is the inherent love of acceptance. We forget that our neighbor is created in the image of God just as assuredly as we are. We carefully cherry-pick scripture to separate ourselves from those whom we deem to be different, then declare that God cannot love the "other" as God loves us. This is a sin as old as time itself.
Yet this isn’t how God loves. God’s love is unconditional, relentless and blind to our desire to categorize our neighbor by their religion, sexual identity, nationality, ethnicity, or politics. Thankfully, God doesn’t ask who I think is undeserving of forgiveness, because I’d have a list as long as my arm of those who’ve frustrated, offended or angered me just this week; folks who I’m just petty enough to refuse to love in my worst moments, and whom I’d be OK with God not loving this week as well.
The problem with our refusal to love and accept our neighbor as they are is that it always seems rational and faithful when we are the ones doing it. Those whom I find myself willing to turn away from in my worst moments may be completely different than those whom you may be willing to do the same to … but it’s the very same brokenness.
We are invited to love as Jesus loved; who shared meals with tax collectors, defended an adulterous woman, touched untouchable lepers, healed the child of a centurion and promised a criminal dying alongside him that he would inherit the kingdom.
Sometimes God’s example of how we are to love makes us really uncomfortable. Well, buck up kiddos. The gospel isn’t just meant to comfort the afflicted. It’s also meant to afflict the comfortable. This means that no one gets a pass on refusing to love, no matter who we are, what faith we profess, or how crabby we feel this week.
Especially in these days of pandemic, as we are tossed about by uncertainty and fear, we’ll need to remember that our neighbor is created in the image of Christ just as we are. This is a time for us to look beyond our differences and to see how God dwells among us in places and in people where we’d perhaps least expect to discover God’s presence.
We are invited to live out the fruit of the spirit by joyfully loving, by promoting peace and patience and by showing kindness, generosity and self-control toward those whom we disagree with. Our descendants will one day read of this moment in history books and either wince at the breadth of our failure, or wonder at the depth of our love. It’s up to us.
"On Faith” is a weekly column in the News-Chronicle written by area religious leaders.