“A NEW command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you so you must love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” -Jesus
I will confess that I don’t love everyone. If I had it my way, I would love only the popular people. Or the people who I really like. Or those who I get along with and can laugh with often. I’m picky.
Actually, I want to love those who are easy to love. Or to put it a bit more bluntly, I want to love people I know will love me back. I want to love people who will love me better than I love them.
Yet that isn’t very loving of me. It is loving with conditions.
And loving with conditions is, in actuality, not loving at all. Loving with strings attached isn’t loving at all. Loving with an agenda or expectations is not loving. It’s just using people.
Oddly, I have found Christians to be most guilty of this (I count myself as a great offender). This doesn’t remind me of Jesus’ commands at all. Often I have found Christians loving people with the sole motive of changing their behavior. Which, again, isn’t loving, but is simply behavior modification.
We say we “love” you, but we don’t “love” what you do. Or we believe that people have to be cleaned up, all fixed, already perfect, before we will love you and welcome you into our church communities. We say, get your act together and then come into this loving community.
We say to divorced men and women: you’re wrong. We say to single mothers: you’re messed up. We say to those who aren’t virgins: you should have been more pure. We say to those with special needs: we don’t know how to help you here. We say to the poor: you’re not rich enough. We say to the rich: you should be poorer. We say to the addicted: just quit. We say to those within our churches who differ from our personal theological stance: you’re wrong and I’m right.
And in regards to the LGBT community, it seems some Christians “love” LGBT individuals in hopes that they will “change,” stop being gay, or will automatically choose to be celibate. But if they don’t, we dehumanize them, turn them into “the least of these,” and then have nothing to do with them. It’s no wonder they hate us so much.
We need to get the plank out of eyes. We need to stop being so obtrusively hypocritical.
The reality is, who would want to be a part of a community that is known for what they are against rather than what they are for? Who would want to be a part of a community that will love you with conditions? Who would stick around and wait for someone to love them only after they have their act together?
I wouldn’t. I need to be loved as I am: flawed, jacked up, picky, and scared. Regardless of my sexual orientation, my lack of purity, my hateful thoughts, or any other list of failings that I have acquired in the last week, I need love to survive and I can’t have people loving me with conditions. I won’t make it.
I believe in a God who has lavished Love on me. And the more I realize this, the more I realize that there is nothing else I want to do with my life but lavish Love on others. The Scriptures say, ‘God so loved the world that he gave his Son.’ (John 3:16a) I want to so love that all I do is give.
We need this to snap inside our souls. It is time to love in such radical ways that the world will look upon us and say, “I’d like to be a part of that.”
It is time we are known for our love.
Nathan Albert is the Director of Pastoral Care at The Marin Foundation. He earned his Master of Divinity from North Park Theological Seminary in Chicago. A member of New Community Covenant Church, he blogs regularly at naytinalbert.blogspot.com and is an avid thumb wrestler. Follow him on twitter: @nathanalbert