Contentious. If I had to sum up the feelings of my heart in one word over the past week, that would be it. There have been big issues in the news, and as a result, if we have been paying attention we’ve had to self-examine and see how these things line up with our personal convictions.
This past week we saw the collision of two very big issues, and they are big issues because they both deal with the subject of fragile human life.
This past week has been the annual ‘March for Life’ and similar events that highlight that as a nation we are complicit in the deaths of 60,000,000 people over the past several decades, by means of abortion.
This past week as well, we saw our new President sign an order that temporarily halts refugee resettlement into our nation from some very vulnerable places. This will undoubtedly cost lives as we’ve seen news story after news story over the past months highlighting the destruction and evil ravaging Syria and neighboring nations. Now we’ve chosen to deny these people running for their lives, any entrance into our country.
Both of these major life issues stir up very strong feelings in my heart. I can’t help but think of Matthew 25. I’ve read that passage of scripture multiple times in the past few weeks, each time looking for the part I must be missing, about when it is okay for us to stop short of doing whatever we can to help the vulnerable once it starts to infringe upon our way of life, our wealth, our comfort. I still haven’t found it.
I’m starting to feel familiar in this place of being misunderstood as a follower of Christ. On the one hand, as someone who is ardently against abortion, I’m way too conservative for my liberal friends. On the other hand, as someone who believes we don’t have a biblical case to shut out immigrants and refugees for reasons of our perceived safety and national wealth, I’m too liberal for my conservative friends.
“O Lord deliver me from this lust of always vindicating myself” (St. Augustine) is a prayer I probably need to tattoo to my wrist (at least temporarily, is there a place to get Henna tattoos around here?), because I don’t know if it’s my red hair or what, but when I’m convinced of something I tend to want to convince everyone else and I tend to gravitate towards fire rather than eloquence.
But then this morning, scripture convicted me (as it does), that no matter what the issue is, who is on “my side” or not, the command for me is the same:
“A new command I give to you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. BY THIS, everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” -John 13:34-35 (emphasis mine)
Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments”. -Matthew 22: 34-40
Jesus is clear: Love is to mark our lives. This means loving those whom we disagree with, Loving those whom we are in alignment with on everything, loving those who are different from us, loving those who are the same as us, loving those who are a potential threat to us, loving those who are going to cost us money, security, time, comfort. And yes, loving those who we have every disagreement with other than this one thing; that Christ Jesus came into the world to live and die as an atonement for humanity’s grievous sins and now lives to be with us as we spread His message of redemption to the ends of the earth.
In short, there is no one excluded from Christ’s command to us to love.
This is something I can’t do without the Holy Spirit of God. Loving those who disagree with me does not come easily. Loving those who might threaten my way of life is scary.
This is the time I have to keep eternity firmly fixed in my sights. A life of love here, no matter the cost, is preparing us for eternity with Christ. And as his ambassadors on this earth, how we love might very well affect someone else’s eternity. My lack of love can push someone away from the love of Christ. This is weighty. This will have me on my knees every day begging God to help me love well, no matter who, no matter where, no matter how wrong I think they are, no matter how inconvenient or dangerous they may seem.
Jesus loves each and every one.