We are a culture of sound bites and snap chats; of selfies and status updates. Our culture is made up of people who make snap judgments on passing impressions and major life decisions based on fragments. We are a busy, distracted, frenzied and selfish people. In this state of being, we miss the big picture, and I was guilty of that earlier this week. On Friday I was raging mad and focused inward so, of course, God decided our entire sermon this Sunday should be about loving people. He does things like that.
Even the most well-meaning Christians are guilty of getting swept up in our fragmented culture and speaking platitudes or cliches about things we cannot know or understand. We tell people to “love God with all your heart, soul and mind” (Matt. 22:36-40). But how often do we do that, and what does it even mean? “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick. Who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9)
How can I love God with my whole heart when I don’t even understand my own heart and motives? King David prayed that God would search him, know him and reveal any offensive way in him (Psalm 139:23-24). When I pray this prayer – for God to reveal my own heart to me – I have to ask myself: Is Jesus my Lord, or is His Second Coming my lord? If Jesus were my Lord, I’d die to my own desires and love the unlovely. But when I make the Second Coming my lord, I just want to get through until I finally make it to eternal life.
You cannot love God with all your heart and selectively love people. When we pray for God to save the people of our neighborhood, guess whose door He’s going to knock on first? When we ask Jesus to save us, so often we mean: “Save me from my current situation. Save me from my enemies.” But when we say, “Jesus, help,” He comes in and goes deeper than we meant. He comes and sits next to us and says, “You are sick and broken and hurt and wounded.” The enemy He rescues us from is ourselves.
Jesus says to love our enemies. Why is that? Because the enemy we’re thinking of is not our real enemy. Satan is the enemy, but we’re not concerned about Satan because we’re too busy beating each other up. “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:12). Satan wants us to hate people, but we are called to love.
I’m a practical person. I like practical steps and real-world applications. And what I have discovered is that the first step toward loving other people is not, “How do I learn to like people I don’t like?”. The first step is to love God with all our heart, soul and mind. When we love God first, He will transform us to love people. God is not in the business of perfume sales; sprucing us up to smell nice on the outside. God is in the business of heart transplants; taking away our hearts of stone and giving us soft hearts that love like His.
Jesus deconstructs culture. He frequently spoke with the perceived dregs of society – prostitutes, tax collectors and even a Samaritan woman. Too often, our allegiances are driven more by our culture than our King. But if we live that way, we cannot love other people. God calls us to break down cultural barriers and love people we would not normally associate with. That is the transformative power of the Holy Spirit. When we love God with our whole heart, we do the unexpected; we break down cultural and societal barriers.
I haven’t been living this way, but I want to. I could beat myself up over my attitude (and my last post), but God doesn’t use fear, guilt and shame to speak to His children. He uses love. Confession isn’t so much telling God that you’re sorry as it is telling God the truth about what you believe. And then repentance is when God speaks the real Truth to us, and we walk away changed.
My confession is that I have been believing that God is not for me. I have been believing that God is against me. I am hurt and sad and lonely and angry and frustrated. I don’t trust God, and so I don’t love people. My confession is that I have been believing that I have to take care of myself because no one will ever take care of me. But the Truth God speaks back to me is that He IS for me; God Himself will fight for me; I need only be still (Ex. 14:14; Deut. 3:22). He is trustworthy. He is sovereign. He is loving. He is King.
Who is God’s enemy? I was. “Through Jesus, God reconciled everything to Himself… This includes you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions” (Col. 1). But praise God! “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8)!
God, teach me how to love you with all my heart, soul and mind. Let’s put aside loving people at this point. It’s You and me, God. How do I love You through this? When I love you, You will fill me with love for people. It’s You and me. Show me how to love You in this moment; in this circumstance; in this season.
And You take my hand, and You guide me on
You show me the way to life
And You lift my head, and You give me hope
You show me the Way to Life