“Love from the centre of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle. Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fuelled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.
Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody. Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody.
Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.” Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.” Romans 12:9-21
Between the decision here in the UK about whether or not we should stay in the EU and the political unrest in the US, not to mention the continuing heated debates around transgender bathrooms, it would be fair to say that there’s an awful lot of sludge running around right now. As such, when I received a cry for help from one of my long time friends and members of The League of Brilliance to do what I could to speak into the mess, I couldn’t resist rolling up my sleeves and getting my hands dirty.
Because how we as Jesus-lovers react during the hard times is massively indicative of our faith.
“For whatever is in your heart determines what you say.” Matthew 12:34
Give you a shove, what falls out? That’s who you really are.
Because it’s easy to be loving and kind when everything is delightful. It’s a joy to serve the people you like. But what about the people who totally do your head in? The ones with whom you really cannot agree?
Love them? Pray for them? What was Jesus thinking?!?
When the pressure is on, the world is watching. We as Jesus-lovers are God’s hands and feet and heart and mouth pieces. His ambassadors and envoys. What kind of a God are we showing the world when we pour acid on an already volatile situation?
Now here’s the thing … much like Saul in his pre-Jesus days when he was rounding up Christians, people standing by their convictions in God’s name genuinely believe they are defending the faith. They’re not doing it to be asses. (Well, not mostly at least!) They read in the bible God’s call to speak truth and take that as a call to arms. To remain quiet when they see wrong-doing would be akin to condoning it. It’s a spiritual battle, they might remind you.
What did Jesus do when he came face to face with the leader of the opposition?
He quoted the bible at him.
“Ah, but let me show you what my bible says about *insert hot issue of the moment*” I can hear it now. We take verses out of context, reading them in a language that is a translation, and use that as our ammunition. But what if, in our bid to speak up for our faith, we’re fighting the wrong battle?
Do you know what the one central, overriding all encompassing theme is throughout the bible? Love.
Love your enemy.
Pray for those who persecute you.
If you must correct your brother, do it with love.
Whenever you speak, do so in a way that will lift another up.
Don’t repay evil with evil. On the contrary, repay evil with a blessing.
Do everything in love.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
God loved the world so much, he sent Jesus. Not to condemn the world but to save it.
God is love.
And yes, I’m paraphrasing slightly but you know why? Because I wrote those off the top of my head because they are central to our faith.
We know this verses inside out and backwards so why is it so hard to live them?
Whatever hate and stupid you’re currently embroiled in, no matter which side you stand on, there is always fault on both sides. For every Trump supporter spouting vitriol you’ll find and equal and opposite Bernie fan. It’s Newton’s third law.
“For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”
But what if we coated every side with love? What if every conversation we had, every action we took, every moment of this day we stepped into was totally drenched in love?
What kind of a difference might that make?
“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colours in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16