Those of us – of a certain age – grew up clinging to our parent’s values and judgements that are based on arbitrary factors such as race, gender, and beliefs, even though those things have nothing to do with the quality of one’s character. How we look at people these days is changing, for the better, and at the same time for the worse. The more we all want to belong, the more we are victimized, targeted, and hated – in private as much as in public. I read today that a group of police officers was forced into jobs away from the public because of a series of hateful private text messages that were sent several months and years ago pertaining to race and sexual orientation. We have government leaders creating laws to protect themselves from certain people, and their lifestyle choices. Are we tired of the hatred yet? Are we tired of trying to force people to live our way, instead of loving them into the life they were created to live? Are we tired of magnifying someone else’s differences so our own don’t seem to matter?
We must be careful. While we may not like or condone certain behaviors, we are called to love EVERYONE anyway– it is the second Commandment that we should love our neighbor as ourselves. God didn’t specify who our neighbor is because every color, creed, sex, height, weight, pay grade, background, hair color, shoe size, and fashion choice – is our neighbor. There are no exceptions in unconditional love, and love never ends, (1 Corinthians 13:8). We are not asked to turn our backs on people, we are asked to turn away from destructive, worldly, ungodly behaviors; in other words, don’t hate the sinner, hate the sin. We can love and appreciate anyone we have the will to love and appreciate.
Love does not push people away, it draws them in. Our acceptance of an individual can change a life, not our overt disgust and constant condemnation. Love does not exclude. To say, “I accept that you made a choice and I love you anyway; I want you around because you can still make a positive impact anyway; you mean so much to me because you are someone worthy of love, affection, compassion and respect… anyway, is what can break a destructive pattern or hardened heart, not more rules and laws, and exclusions.
Love does no harm to a neighbor (Romans 13:10). God’s’ love is unconditional. He doesn’t wait for us to get it right, to walk through a certain door, to live a certain way, or carry a certain translation of the Bible before he loves us. He loves us and all of our ways…anyway, all day, every day. This we are called to imitate.
What about you, when will you be tired of harming your neighbors? Are you sending hateful text messages, refusing service, keeping your family away, bullying, gossiping, turning your nose up at public choices you profess you would never make?
Choose to love, no matter what, and you will find yourself rewarded with more love, joy, respect, and compassion.