Did you ever think a group of men would come together to talk about love? Jesus gave a strong statement on love in John 15:12, “My command is this: Love one another as I have loved you.” And then, when asked by a Pharisaic lawyer, ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law?’ Jesus answered him with, “’You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22: 36-40). These are two very strong statements by Jesus that calls us to love others and not condemn. This past week in Men’s Life, we struggled and discussed what this “love” really is and how we express it to a world that is hurting and sinful, exactly like us.
It seems clear that to follow the example of Christ means we are called to love and serve others. Love is not defined as something we do when we like, feel comfortable with, or fully accept all things about another person. Jesus didn’t mean we can pick and choose who to love. A key phrase is in John 15:12, “…as I have loved you.” This sends chills down my spine as I think of the implication! Jesus became man to live amongst us and serve before giving the gift of life to ALL of us through His death and resurrection. He clearly didn’t choose any particular person or group to love. Lest we forget that He was born the Jewish Messiah, yet during his life he spent time with people marginalized by the Jewish leaders and in his death and resurrection he extended forgiveness and salvation to the gentiles and all mankind! This was a radical change that even the disciples struggled with after He returned to be with God. If we are to be Christ followers and live His commandments in scripture, we need to love and serve everyone. We don’t get the convenience of choosing based on religious preference, nationality, income status, personality, dress or hairstyle, etc. Jesus’ love has NO exclusions, and neither should ours.
In addition, Jesus didn’t condemn or change people prior to loving them. We talked about the story of the adulterous woman brought before Jesus by the Pharisees (John 8:3-11). The woman clearly broke a commandment and by Jewish law, she deserved to die. Jesus’ reaction to the situation is life changing. He listened to the Pharisees charges, without expressing anger or judgment in their actions. He then turned the table on them by asking which of them has never sinned. In the end, He was left with the woman standing before him with no accusers. Jesus made it clear to her he didn’t condemn her, but rather, He simply asked her to, “go and sin no more.” This passage shows us a clear way to relieve the tension between loving and confronting. Love isn’t a warm fuzzy feeling of acceptance; it is an action to introduce others to Christ. It is acknowledging that His love has no exclusions and neither should ours! We must have an active love that meets people’s needs and prayerfully leads them towards living Christ-like lives while having faith that God will change their hearts without us having to publicly rebuke their sins. God calls us to love, listen, discern, and respond. It doesn’t mean we endorse or encourage sin. But we must always ask ourselves if our response is “loving in the same way Jesus loved us.”
We are blessed to live in a diverse community where the entire world comes to us. However, in our humanness, it can be challenging to engage because we need to move from our comfort zone into the margins. This is where God wants us and His greatest work is often done in these margins. By loving our neighbors the way Jesus showed us, we can overcome our differences, here in Bloomington and across the world! So, choose love and let God change their and our hearts when needed.