All this talk about clean and unclean and about how it relates to love has been leading essentially to this: we have to do love better.
We spend most of our lives figuring out who we are going to love. I'm not talking about relationships, about marriage, about that kind of love; I'm just talking about brotherly and sisterly Christian love that we spend far too much of our time calculating.
When someone approaches us with a need, we start asking questions in our minds. How many opportunities has this person had already? How is my investment going to pay off in their lives? If you give a man a fish, he eats for a day...how many days of fish has this person already eaten?
Or we look at the way they are living their lives. Are they dirty? Do they sin? Do they have an addiction?
We have all of these qualifiers of situations that we will and won't get involved in because we've become very good at reducing persons to situations, forgetting what is human and focusing only on what is clean. But I have to be honest with you - most of the persons who are in need of love are not clean.
They are men and women sitting in mold-infested houses with the rotting corpses of their own hopes and dreams. Everything they once were, everything they had ever hoped to be, is dying right before their very eyes, and what they've got right now is a bunch of so-called Christians standing outside their doors, unwilling to go in lest they become unclean themselves.
And on the other side of this equation, we've got in our lives those who are truly willing to love us, but we're judging them, too. Here we are lying in ditches, covered in our own blood, aching and broken and bruised and crying out for help. Our friends pass us by. Our communities pass us by. But there's always that one person, that one tender-hearted true person who wants to stop and help.
We start asking questions. Does this person really have the resources to help me? (I have turned down money from persons who know are poorer than I am, even though they have been adamant about helping me financially.) Does this person have the spiritual qualifications to help me? (Remember that really dumb thing he said in Bible class? He doesn't know anything!) Is this person super-busy fighting her own demons right now? (She has an addiction; she has a messed-up family; she is overburdened.) Is this person clean?
Most of us, at one point or another, have looked into the eyes of someone who desperately wanted to love us, and we have found them unclean in one way or another. And we have, in effect, said to them, "Nah. I'm good. Just gonna lay here in this ditch for awhile. You might as well roll me in dung rather than reach out and touch me. You. disgust. me."
And most of us, at one point or another, have had someone look into our eyes and say the same thing. (And none of us have liked that experience.)
All of that, and all of this week, to say this: love is messy. It's not perfect. It's not neat and tidy. It's not "clean." Most of the time, it's "unclean." And that's okay. We spend so much of our time trying to figure out how to do all this ritual stuff, all this clean and unclean and sacrifices and shaving and atonement and community and cut off from community and this and that and the other, but the highest law of the Christian is love, and love doesn't always play by these rules.
Love goes into the house, knowing there's a dead body in there. Love goes in, knowing there's mold. Love goes in, knowing it's coming out unclean, but it goes in anyway because love knows that inside that house is where there is a heart that's broken. Inside that house is where someone is hurting. Inside that house is where someone needs love. And it's worth it.
Love takes the hand that reaches out to it and climbs out of the ditch. Love reaches back to those reaching out to it. Love embraces the one who is willing to embrace us, no matter what. No matter what. And it's worth it.
May we love one another so boldly, so graciously, so well. May we love one another the way that God has called us to. May we walk into houses and climb out of ditches and love one another the way that love demands.
May we love....