Those that know me have noticed that I’ve mellowed quite a bit over the last few years.  I haven’t lost my zeal or fervor but I have learned (and am continuing to learn) that there is a time and a place to offer a counterpoint to those who I disagree with; those places rarely include Facebook or Twitter.  Remembering what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13:4 helps considerably in that effort – I often repeat it over and over to myself so that I don’t fly off the handle when facing a topic that is especially important to me.

Love is patient. Love is kind.

It breaks my heart to see so much hatred in this world – at times I almost want to remove myself from it all and be a hermit so that I wouldn’t have to encounter so much brokenness.  Pain and anguish is all around us and I am torn between wanting to give the victims a big, Iowan bear-hug or to go straight at the offenders to give them a piece of my mind.  I don’t like seeing injustice and my parents can attest to that worldview being part of me for my entire life.

Love is patient.

The loss of life over the past few weeks due to the actions of a few radicals is terrible so please don’t misinterpret what I’m about to say as being supportive of those individuals:

The Islamophobia that some of my fellow Christians have been proclaiming is far from Christ-like and does the opposite of what we were commanded to do by Jesus.

Maybe the rhetoric I’m referencing is what you hold to; maybe I just seriously stepped on your toes by challenging that opinion to which you hold so fiercely.  To you I say this: I get it.  I understand.  You’re scared of being hurt by these evil people who want to do you harm and you don’t want them to continue to hurt the innocent.  But does that fear mean that you are right to ignore the command that Jesus gave us?  Does your blanket hatred of all Muslims (not just the terrible crimes committed by a few individuals) really proclaim the love of Christ or does it simply make you feel more in control within this broken world?

Love is kind.

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” – Mark 12:30-31 (NIV)

As much as we may wish that there were, there is no qualifier given in scripture for who we are not to love.  On the contrary, we are instructed to love everyone!  In Luke 10, Jesus was asked to define who a “neighbor” was – no doubt so that those who didn’t fit the description could be left out in the cold.  He replied with a fantastic parable about a Samaritan man helping a Jewish man that had been beaten and left for dead.  For the original audience, a Samaritan was lower than low!  They were the enemy: dirty and to be stayed far, far away from.  Recognizing the Samaritan as the hero of the story would have been tough to swallow.  Through this parable, Jesus taught that if we are to obey one of the greatest commandments in scripture then we have to love those people who everyone else says to hate.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  –  Matthew 5:43-48 (NIV)

Some of my fellow Christians have been quick to show hate toward Muslims (or other groups) because it seems right to them in light of recent terrorists attacks around the world.  It’s amazing how often I read posts online that ring out with “They did something bad!  They don’t deserve love!” or something similar.  I admit that I too struggle with this at times – it doesn’t seem fair to love people that do wrong.

But here’s the deal: it isn’t fair that Jesus loves you and me.  We like to imagine that Jesus loves only those that are like us: people that have it all together (or pretend to).  People who speak the right way or dress the right way or behave the right way but that’s simply not true.  We forget that he loves everybody!  The poor, the sick, the dying, the broken, the immoral…he loved them all 2,000 years ago and he loves them all today – he is love.

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” – 1 John 4:7-11

Love is patient.

When I was younger I found the story of Jesus flipping out in the temple to be funny and a little odd (John 2): what was the big deal with a little business when people obviously needed those services?  I think I understand it a little better now – those people should have known better!  No “sinner” ever got as harsh a reaction to what they were doing than the religious people who should not have had to be corrected in the first place.  Likewise, Christians today that spew hatred for those living in darkness – who according to scripture are our neighbors – should know better!  Followers of Jesus who have taken the name that literally means “little christ” should not have to be corrected on this very basic tenant of scripture!  This is why I’m speaking so forcefully: I shouldn’t have to be saying these things because this shouldn’t be an issue.

If I’m brutally honest, lately it has been easier for me to love the broken and destitute than to love some of my fellow believers that are behaving in this way.  In fact it has been easier for me to love the Muslim people I interacted with in the UAE than some of the Christians in my own country!  I automatically have mercy for those who haven’t found the Light of Christ but find it increasingly more difficult for those that know the Messiah and don’t act like it.

Dear Christian, your Muslim neighbor is not your enemy.  The devil is your enemy (1 Peter 5:8-9)!  Your neighbors are living in darkness, unaware of the power of the Cross so stop being a hinderance to them coming to Jesus!  Why would you hate those that God loves as a result of a few radicals that are killing in the name of their false god?  Why are you so afraid?  Show love to them instead in what you say and what you do (this includes Twitter and Facebook) – not because it is easy or because it seems “fair” to you but because it is what Jesus commanded.

Love is kind.