Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Words and Love

"Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable in Your sight,
O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer."
(Psalm 19:14 NKJV)

There are so many words to say about the state of this world, this nation, right now. And yet I know that no matter how purposefully I choose them, my own words will never be enough.

Enough to speak to and soothe the pain on every side.

Enough to find the common ground we can all shake our heads "yes" to.

Enough to universally satisfy; enough to keep that dreaded reaction—offense—from springing up in whoever is on the receiving end of the words I share.

We live in a world that's desperate to define microaggressions in the hopes that other words, like marginalization, will cease to exist. And yet a quick scroll through Twitter will tell you that, by and large, we still see no problem with—in a very macro way—using our words to annihilate the viewpoint of anyone who dares to disagree with us about any given issue, usually via an attack on said person's character or intellect.  

Raise your hand if you've ever seen the words "go kill yourself" tweeted to a politician, an activist, or just some person on the internet who accidentally composed their thoughts the wrong way and went viral because of it.

The words we use don't line up with the things we say we want for this country, this nation.

We have so much work to do in the way of love.

And speaking of love—I believe we've watered it down. That's because I don't believe that love is an emotion. It's not a feeling. It's not something that can be given and then taken away when the person we're loving says, or does, or even believes something wrong.

"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love." (1 John 4:7-8)

I believe that there's good in the world, and I believe that when we use our words to cry out for more love, we mean it. But I also believe that in so many ways, we've gotten it backwards. We've elevated love to the position of a deity, believing that if we can just love more this world will be fixed. This is futile, because the truth is that love isn't God. God is love. 

The Love that He personifies is sacrificial, completely devoid of selfishness, all-knowing and constant anyway. The fact that my God can see every motivation of my heart and continue His perfect Love towards me brings me to my knees. 

Because here is something that I know He sees: I want to be loved by all men. I want everyone to like me and agree with what I have to say. I have an actual fear of being ostracized due to a misinterpretation of my beliefs or words; of being dragged through the mud of social media and labeled as something I'm not. Of being hated and reviled. Maligned and misunderstood.

And yet then I recall that my God already was. 

The same people who waved palm fronds and welcomed Jesus to Jerusalem spit on His face and shouted "crucify" just a few days later. Jesus, who never sinned. Jesus, who never had mixed motivations. Jesus, who had spent three years giving sight to the blind, healing the lame, and raising the dead out of an overflow of compassion for all men. Jesus, the Son of God who could have justified Himself in an instant and obliterated anyone and everyone else who said otherwise. 

This Jesus, My God, did not go to the cross with vengeance and anger in His heart. He went to the cross not only in perfect love, but as Perfect Love itself, crying out "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do." (Luke 24:34) The One least deserving of shame and reproach bore it willingly so that I could be made free and gain acceptance as a child of God. 

"For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Corinthians 5:21)

It would be easier to love those who stand in complete opposition to us if we weren't confronted by their opinions every day—the ones that make us feel completely out of control and more than misunderstood. I know this. I've felt this. But I'm not called to limit my love to those who agree with me or love me back. I'm called to love as I've been loved.

"As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends." (1 John 15:11-13; keep reading here)

To be clear, this passage on love doesn't end here—immediately after, Jesus explains why the world will hate us for following Him (read that passage here). He knew these days of violent actions and vicious words would come. So I'm going to trust Him in this world, in this nation. I'm going to intentionally call to remembrance what He bore on the cross before bearing up arms. And by His grace, I'm going to continue to love even if and when the world's commendation turns to condemnation.

- - -

"Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing." (1 Peter 3:8-9; this entire letter focuses on encouraging believers, by way of Christ's example, who are suffering—start from the beginning here)

"Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you." (Matthew 5:11-12) 

"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust." (Matthew 5:43-45)

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