Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Love One Another

Recently, I saw a man claim the goodness of his own person because he's someone who "loves everybody the same." It's a standard that our culture has set, and since Jesus told us that we will be known by our love, we, as Christians, have opted in. Sounds good, doesn't it? Just love everybody.

Except Jesus never said to love everybody. He didn't even say to love everybody when He said that we will be known by the way that we love - and that He will be known by the way that we love. What Jesus always said about love is that we are to love one another.

That's a significant difference.

This idea that we love everybody means that we have one kind of love. We have one standard of love. We have one understanding that we just apply across the board. And that doesn't work.

It doesn't work because every individual person that we meet is different, and that means that it's impossible to love them all the same. Something you do for one of those persons may be loving, but if you do for to someone else, it's not loving at all. You may have a friend who is struggling under the weight of depression, and it might be a tremendous act of love to go in and clean his kitchen for him, washing all his dishes, putting things back where they go, polishing the stove. That little bit of quiet attention and that small piece of order and cleanliness put back in his life might touch something deep in his soul and spark a new breath in him.

But you might have another friend struggling under the weight of depression who has been motivating herself to get up and clean her kitchen as the first little step that she is taking toward gaining her life back. Which means that if you go in and start tidying up, you're not loving her; you're taking away the stone she's planning to step on to get back to where she wants to be.

If you love "everybody," it's easy to say that you love them by cleaning their kitchen. But cleaning a kitchen is not loving to everybody. It's a small, silly example, but you can easily see the point.

Love is a dynamic thing. It's not easily definable because it's something different in every situation. And when the man who made the statement about how he loves everybody the same said it, I immediately recalled things that he had previously said that were, quite honestly, not loving to many. He had created a huge blind spot in his theology because he assumed that love was one thing and that having one standard and treating everyone exactly the same - out of his goodness - was love. A blanket sort of love that no one could argue with. But the truth is, a lot of persons have been disenfranchised by him. And another truth is that he honestly doesn't see it. If you try to confront him with it, he is convinced the problem is not with his love, but with those he's trying to love. They just don't get it. He loves everybody.

And I think that's why Jesus is so careful always to say that we are to love one another, not everybody. I think that's why He puts such an emphasis on one another. Because love is this complicated thing where we have to keep figuring out all over again what love is. Love is not something we can just decide on and set in stone and throw out into the world we do any policy or procedure.

You have to figure out what love is in any given situation, with any given human being, at any given time. You have to invest yourself in someone else's story deeply enough to figure out what role you're playing in it. Do you remember back in the 90s? We had some actors who played the same role over and over and over again. All of their movies were essentially the same. They walked onto the set and were just the same character, every time. That's how too many of us do love. We just walk into other persons' stories as the character we think we are, and we don't bother to learn our lines for this story. Because hey, we love everybody. It doesn't matter what the story is.

The world's idea of love, then...not only does it not work, but it falls way short of the call that Jesus has issued for us. It falls way short of the teaching of Christ on what it means to be in brotherly fellowship with one another. It falls way short of what love actually is. We can't love everybody. We can only ever love one another. One at a time. In one unique way after another after another after another.

The standard is not, nor can it be, to love everybody. The standard, as set by Jesus Himself, is to love everyone.

So love one another. 

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