The Love of God Transcends our Differences
In Luke chapter six, the words of Jesus are so radical, extreme, and hard to comprehend that many Christians seem to ignore them, because they cannot fathom that He really wants us to live like this. In this passage of Scripture, He instructs us to rejoice when men hate us, shun us, mock us, and curse us as evil. He even goes so far as to tell us to leap for joy when we are treated this way. He warns us that it is not a good thing when all men speak well of us. He then commands us to love our enemies, to do good to those that hate us, to bless those that curse us, and to pray for those that hurt us. He teaches us to turn the other cheek and to do unto others as we would want them to do to us. Society has taken this verse and labeled it the golden rule. However, the rest of this passage is barely comprehendible and scarcely followed by modern day Christians.
Jesus makes the point that even sinners love their friends who love them and even sinners do good things to their friends who do good things to them. So, if we behave the way sinners behave, what eternal significance or profit could possibly be in that kind of thinking and acting? It is not enough to love the people who love us and agree with us. In order to follow Jesus, we must actually learn to love our enemies and to do good or nice things to them. He then begins to make His point about the law of reciprocity. He instructs us to be merciful; if we do that, then we will receive mercy. He tells us to not to judge others so that we will not be judged. He tells us to not condemn anyone, and we will not be condemned. Then He tells us to forgive so that we can be forgiven.
Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake. Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets. But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation. Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep. Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets. But I say unto you which hear, love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you. And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloke forbid not to take thy coat also. Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again. And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: Luke 6:22-37 KJV
In this election year, our country, America, is very sharply divided over many different political, social, economic, and cultural issues. The candidates on the right and the left are trying to appease their followers who hold extreme views, while at the same time trying to be perceived as close enough to the center to get elected. Many people are so passionate about their ideologies or positions that they actually have begun hating those who have a different set of ideas or a different position.
I find it sad that people cannot seem to understand that to disagree with someone does not make them an enemy. To express a differing opinion or criticize someone’s ideas is not the same as criticizing the person. For me not to agree with someone on any issue does not mean that I don’t love and respect the person. The reason people hate those who differ with them is because their identity is wrapped up in their ideology. If you disagree with their point of view, they feel as if you are rejecting them, so they fight back with hate. My identity is in Christ and not in my point of views on current pressing issues. Therefore, if you reject my point of views, I do not take it personally, nor should it offend me. If I get offended, it shows me that I still have some of my identity in something other than Jesus Christ. Of course, I have strong opinions on each of the major issues facing our Country, but I refuse to let my identity get wrapped up in my ideologies; instead my identity should stay in Christ Jesus.
If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. Colossians 3:1-3
Many of the key issues our country faces today are very difficult and complex problems. If we don’t solve the problems soon, our country will face dire consequences. I completely understand why people are so passionate about these issues, and I understand why there is so much hate amongst people of different views. However, hatred from Christians toward those with different viewpoints is unacceptable and needs to stop.
The war against extreme radical Islamic terrorism casts fear over the entire world, and is such a big issue that it divides nations and people. We all know that ISIS is evil and needs to be destroyed, but how to deal with this has us divided as a nation. Determining if a Muslim is a peaceful Muslim or one who holds extreme radical views is difficult. The far left wants to allow a massive immigration of Syrian refugees and is refusing to even articulate the problem. The far right suggests a complete ban on any Muslims entering our country. I can see both points of view, and I am all for getting tough on the war against ISIS. On the other hand, there are many peaceful, law-abiding Muslims in the USA, and some of them have even served our country. How do you fight a war when you have trouble identifying the enemy? The identification of the enemy is complicated because all Muslims believe the Koran; however, it is the interpretation of the Koran that separates the peaceful Muslim from the radical Muslims who want to kill Christians and Jews.
The issue of illegal immigrants has the entire country in an uproar. Surely a nation is no nation at all if it is a nation without borders. We all see the importance of securing our borders. But then again, the borders with Mexico have been relaxed for so long that we now have millions of illegal Mexicans living in the USA. Many of these people are some of the best Christians that I have ever met or known. Many of them have had children while living and working here in the USA, making the children US citizens. The far right wants to build a wall and send all of the illegals back to Mexico while the far left wants to give them all amnesty.
The LGBT community has grown in numbers, power, and influence over the past few years in America. The far left wants to force societal acceptance of their life-style to the point of governing our businesses and churches and mandating that they be treated with equal rights as all citizens. Evangelicals, who refuse to perform their marriage ceremonies or allow them to adopt children, are consequently putting up a fight over their rights to use a public bathroom other than what their God-given gender dictates. I understand the need to preach against the sin of homosexuality, just as we should preach against any other sin, and I certainly will not endorse sin of any type, nonetheless, I see where true Christians should love everyone without exception. If we stop loving people because their ideas are different from ours, are we any different from the world? Jesus ate with sinners, prostitutes, greedy tax collectors and worse, because Jesus came to love and to save sinners.
The economy is a huge problem. The USA is rapidly approaching a debt of 20 trillion dollars. This is an unpayable debt and in my opinion, the biggest threat to our country. If we don’t stop the wasteful government spending at once, we will not have a country to fight over in the near future. The welfare system is broken; social security is almost bankrupt; and there is a giant fight over the tax system. Like any home or business, when you are drowning in debt, you must make some radical changes soon, or you will be out of business or bankrupt. So many people are receiving money from the government that sometimes, some of them let their own personal interest dictate their political preference. Instead, we all should be looking at what is best for the entire country. This fight over money makes people furious when one opinion differs from another. “For the love of money is the root of all evil.”
Gun control and the fight to preserve our second amendment is becoming a war in itself. The far left wants to take our guns away, while the far right wants to do everything possible to make sure that Americans have the right to bear arms. Every time there is a shooting or a murder where a gun was used as the murder weapon, the left gets on the media and warns us that we must take everyone's guns away, or things will get worse. Guns don’t kill people; people kill people. Take the guns away, and murderers will still find a way to kill people (i.e. terrorist in France killed 84 people with a truck). Some become very outspoken on this issue where there is great passion on both sides. The far right is so passionate over this issue that they predict a literal new civil war if the US government ever tries to disarm Americans. When celebrities, athletes or political leaders take a strong stand on this issue, people instantly either love them or hate them, because of their adamant views.
As the racial issue in our country worsens, we are becoming more divided than we were 30 years ago. We seem to be digressing instead of progressing. It was a horrific tragedy that a policeman shot an unarmed African American male. Was it stupidity? Was he was untrained, afraid, and overreacted. Was it murder or was it a hate crime? I will never know his intentions or his heart, and that is not for me to judge. Conversely, it is for the courts, a judge, and jury to decide. Following this incident, a man shot and killed five policemen in Dallas. This was a brutal murder, killing men who were hired to enforce our laws and worked to serve and protect citizens. Both incidents are wrong, and two wrongs do not make a right. The racial tension is so great in America that people are taking these two incidents and digging their heels in toward one other with hate. If strong leadership doesn’t step up and do something soon, we could be back where we were in the 1960’s. A true Christian will not be a racist; nor will he/she hate any person because of their skin color; nor will he/she feel superior to any person because of their skin color. In fact, a true Christian will not feel superior to any other person for any reason at all. If you feel superior to anyone, then you really need to get on your knees and examine your heart. The ground is equal at Calvary.
Abortion, still a hot issue, has killed over 57,000,000 babies since the Roe vs Wade Supreme Court ruling in 1973. Evangelicals still hold this as one of their top priorities as they seek to reverse this ruling. Contrariwise, many people who, for whatever reason, have had an abortion, continue to fight for their rights to do so and do not want to feel condemned for their choice. Some well-meaning, well-intentioned Christians have taken a stand to fight for the rights of the unborn in America, but when their passion for justice goes too far and turns into hate, then we have one wrong trying to be solved by another wrong. I am against abortion, but my view will never give me the right to hate those who see it differently.
Whoever is elected President will have the opportunity to select new Supreme Court justices in the next four years, and this issue alone might have more bearing on the future of our country than any other. Most importantly, who you vote for does matter. I encourage you to vote, but please continue to love those who may vote differently from you.
I could go on and on talking about the issues our country faces. The more we discuss them and think on them, the more passionate we become. As we take sides, form opinions, and create dogmatic ideologies, these viewpoints have the potential to pit us against each other. We are a country divided and a house divided cannot stand.
What we need is leadership that will learn to draw circles of love around the citizens of our country and not lines of division. As we reflect upon the words of Jesus in Luke chapter six, we see that a life of following Jesus, a life of walking in the Spirit, or walking in newness of life, is a life of loving people who have different ideas or ideologies from our own. Birds of a feather flock together, and people like to hang out with people who think and believe just like they think and believe. This is what the world does, but it has no place in Christianity.
If my identity is in Christ Jesus, then I will be able to love everybody. However, if my identity is in my beliefs, dogma, or ideologies, then when someone attacks my beliefs, I will take it personally and get offended, signifying that my beliefs have become my idol, causing me to hate that person. How can I say I am walking in the Holy Spirit and am a sanctified child of God, if I am hating someone just because they believe differently from me? Jesus instructs us to love everyone, no matter what they believe.
Christians even fight amongst themselves because of different beliefs about the Bible. The Christian world is divided into many different groups and denominations because of differing ideas and interpretations of the Scriptures. It is a good thing to take a stand for what you believe, as long as you can continue to love the person who differs from you. Once you start hating someone for believing differently, you are doing the same thing as the lost sinners. How can we say we love God when we hate our brother?
Remember, to differ with someone should not mean that you don’t love or respect that person. You should be able to have different opinions about different issues and still demonstrate the love of Jesus toward that person. Democrats and Republicans should be able to go to church together and be able to love each other. A Christian should love Muslims, Hindus, Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses, and atheist as much as we love those who believe just the way we believe. I’m not saying to compromise your beliefs nor to compromise your ideologies, for we should spend our life forming the correct and truthful ideas about God and our relationship with Him and our relationship with mankind. Nevertheless, my identity is not in my points of view; nor is it in my ideologies; nor is it in my dogma. Instead, my identity is in Christ Jesus. Therefore, when others oppose my ideologies, then I am not taking it personally, nor do I feel rejected. Therefore, with a healthy identity in Christ Jesus, I am able to love everyone, even my enemies.
Jesus made His enemies His friends, by loving them, by giving His life on the cross of Calvary. He made a way of reconciliation for the enemies of God to go back to a right relationship with God. Is this not the mandate to be a follower of Jesus Christ, that we love our enemies? To live with hate in your heart toward anyone is to live a life separated from God. Love does not require political agreement nor does it require doctrinal agreement, for the love of God transcends both.