Thursday, January 3, 2008

Love the sinner, not the sin....

In Mark, one of the "teachers of the law" asks Jesus which of the commandments is the most important
"The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these."(Mark 12:29-31 NIV)

Matthew has this detail of the discussion
One of [the Pharisees], 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.'
(Matthew 22:35-38 NIV)

So it's pretty clear that we are supposed to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. I take this to mean that we are to have love for everyone regardless of color, creed, religious belief or affiliation, etc. Sounds pretty easy, huh?

Well, it ain't easy. I can find all kinds of reasons not to love other people. But it turns out I'm dead wrong about them all. What I'm really judging is their behaviors that I don't like. They do things to annoy me, tick me off, disgust me, horrify me, or bore me.

But thank God these folks are not the sum total of their behaviors/personality traits/beliefs. I say "thank God" because that means that I'm not either! It means that all the stuff about me that I detest or that you don't like do not define me - the me that God sees, the me that God knows.

And that is incredibly good news for us all, of course. The image of God is in each and every one of us. It is often buried deep beneath a lot of stuff and may have never seen the light of day in some of us. But it is there. Written on the true self, waiting to be uncovered and let out to shine with reflected glory from God.

This was all brought into my mind recently during a discussion with very close friends who don't hold the same view of or belief in Christ that I have. Not simply "doctrinal" or denominational difference but almost like "major world religion" differences. I love these friends like family but was somewhat shaken as we talked about our beliefs and faith. How can people I love so much be so, well, wrong (is that the right word?) about something this big. And how does that affect our relationship now? Should I treat them any differently? Am I supposed to do anything different?

Thanks to those passages from Mark and Matthew, I do know that I will keep on loving them. I will pray for them. I will also try to make my life a living testament to the Christ that I know. And perhaps that will be enough...