Love One Another—All One Anothers
“The Muslims are trying to take over our country,” my friend said, fear barely disguised in his voice.
“Really? What makes you say that?” I asked.
“I saw them all at a rest stop one time in Ohio. They had on their robes and they were bowing to Mecca.”
“So what percentage of the US population do you think is Muslim?” I asked, trying to get to the bottom of his concern.
“Well, I don’t know that. I just know they are taking over. They are everywhere, in sports, everywhere,” his voice trailed off but the edge of certainty was audible.
“I have looked it up, and it’s about 1%,” I told him.
“1% of the total of the US population is Muslim,” I clarified.
“Well, that doesn’t matter. They are still taking over. I just don’t like them.”
“Them, who?” I asked. “Muslims in general? That’s 25% of the world’s population.”
“I can’t help it. I just don’t like them.”
This conversation with my committed Christian friend continued to trouble me throughout the day, leading me to the Bible where I looked for words of guidance. What I read called me to greater humility, love, patience and advocacy.
Jesus said to his disciples shortly before his crucifixion: “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this, everyone will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Here Jesus is inviting us to be loving toward other disciples, even those who are seeing the world through a lens of fear and judgement. Earlier he also spoke of obedience to his words as the sign of his touch on our lives, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has a greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.” (John 15:12-14)
When we see our fellow disciples walking in a way that is contrary to what Jesus taught, we have the obligation, the command from our Lord, to continue in a loving relationship with them. In this case, what does a loving relationship entail? How do we lovingly help one another navigate through our prejudices, especially when the world around us does nothing but stoke the fires of fear and insecurity?
When we live in a world-view dominated by fear instead of love, we see “others” as threatening instead of, as Jesus proposed, beloved by him and worthy of our love too. When we live in fear, we build walls, long for bigger prisons and arm ourselves for self-defense—for what choice do we have? Evil is out to get us.
In John 3:16 and Matthew 28:19-20 we read some of the most often quoted verses of scripture, both of which tell us of God’s great love for all of humanity, no exceptions, and our call to go and do likewise. Throughout the ages, we read in scripture and in later “His-story” instances of God’s people hating others, persecuting others in the name of Jesus, and even killing vast numbers supposedly to further the cause of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Most of us roundly condemn these behaviors and exempt ourselves from the propensity to do such evil. And yet. Here we are in our day, making statements about people of other religions trying to take us over. If we really ponder the view he espoused, wouldn’t the logical outcome of that statement be that we need to control, oppress or even fight against those “others” that are taking over?
In the words of Jesus we find a completely different approach, a way that leads to love and life eternal: “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matt. 5: 11-12)
Regarding our ostracism of those who threaten our nation, our selves, our way of life, our color, our culture, our language, Jesus advocates for a way of love that is beyond the capability of the human heart and there only through his grace, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?” (Matt. 5:43-46)
In our grace-less humanity, we long to draw lines of demarcation around our love. It is so much easier that way. This is white. That is black. This is me. That is you. This is great. That is not. We love the rules, the enforcement, the exclusion of doubt, the judgment. But then we have this Jesus, this lover of our souls that will not let us go, that will not leave us alone in our lack of love. He keeps pulling us out of our circle and making it wider until, before we know it, the whole world, every last one of these creations of his, stands with us in our circle and we have no choice but to give it all up and love.
Through Christ, we are blessed with courage and power that are not naturally in us. 2 Tim.1:7 says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (NKJV) The fear is held in check by the power, the love and the sound mind—all employed together to keep us from giving way to the flow of self-interest that runs through our veins when we live in the flesh. Life in the spirit is an invitation to leave all that selfishness behind and to pursue, unfettered, the joy-filled life of love that Jesus invites us to.
Back to my friend. What do I say? How do I love him with Christ-like love?
Let us pray that our lives will be ruled by love and not by hate.
Let us pray together for those we are inclined to hate for we all have challenges—your struggle may not be mine, but I have struggles, too.
Let us keep reading all of God’s love letter to us, and examining it with new eyes and open hearts, every day.
Let us remember that when God brings people that are “different” into our lives, he does it with an invitation for us to love better, deeper, wider, longer so that we can be transformed in the process.
Let us invite the Holy Spirit of God to live in us and make us over from the inside out into people that look just like Jesus, the lover of all our souls; lover of every last one of us on this earth.