By Hannah Nelson – Associate Pastor – Kids and Families
When Loving One Another
is More Difficult
Than Loving Your Enemy
Like many people recently I have been thinking, praying, and processing the recent events that have taken place in our nation over the last several months. I have plenty of my own opinions that are filtered through my personal lens as a mother, an adult white woman, a pastor, and spouse of a pastor, etc. But the most important lens that I must use is that of being a Jesus follower. My goal in this process has not been to align myself with a particular political party, not to condone nor condemn a social justice movement, not to justify actions or words that have been spoken by a human being. No, my aim has been to keep my eyes on Jesus, to immerse myself in the Word, and perform a serious heart and soul check. I am sharing this post in the hope that we can “seek first the kingdom of God” (Matthew 6:33) and allow the love of Jesus to lead us and flow out of us to others, even when it’s hard and painful to do so. As I sit down to write I realize this will take some time to work through and it will be too long for one post. So, here is part 1.
Let me start with this: I am not wishing to debate politics, or social justice, or the like. I believe that as followers of Jesus we are called to live at peace with each other, as far as it depends on us. (Romans 12:18) We must name sin and evil when we see it, even (and especially) when it is in ourselves. To be clear-racism, violence, elitism, and the like, in any and all forms are wrong. This post is meant to explore how we, as Christians, are supposed to react and interact with each other when we don’t agree, nay, when we are at odds with each other.
I have been disheartened lately to hear from fellow believers the rhetoric that they wouldn’t want to associate with other Christians who might hold certain political affiliations, or differ on opinions regarding race, sex, and gender, or any number of other emotionally charged issues. As I have tried to digest and understand this sentiment, I can’t help but go back to the words of Jesus when He tells us to love our neighbor, to love our enemies, and to love one another in the same way that He did (sacrificial love). How then could one justify actively disassociating from another believer? Wouldn’t that go against exactly what Jesus has taught us?
Let’s start with this one:
This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.
Jesus loved us so much that He took our sin upon himself, hung from the cross, and died. (John 3:16) I don’t know about you, but I haven’t reached that standard yet! Jesus modeled humility and sacrifice. Jesus told parables about seeking the lost and forgiving one another. Friends, this is the love that I want to have! I know I am far from perfect. I realize that I must work hard to see others the way that God sees them, as special and dearly loved.
Though it can be difficult to extend that sacrificial love to one another when there is deep disagreement, or even animosity, I must first remember that I am an imperfect sinner. I have been extended perfect love and forgiveness from Jesus. And if the Living God can do that for me, then it is essential that I do the same for others. Jesus didn’t say, “love each other as long as you are on the same page, but if you disagree on something then it’s okay to turn your back on one another.” Can you imagine?? And yet, we do virtually just that when we decide that we can’t go to church if “that person” is there, or we won’t talk with someone if they “voted for…”. I am so thankful that I serve a God who doesn’t use that measure against me. I serve a God who offered (and continues to offer) His love to us no matter what.
And so, this question arises: How far can someone go before we can’t (or won’t) love them with the love of Christ? And the only answer I can come up with is this: If Jesus’ death on the cross extends to all humanity and covers all sin, then the love and forgiveness of the Risen Savior is not OURS to limit or contain, so let’s do all we can to share it with others, even—or especially—when we disagree.