Today’s politically charged and fear-drenched climate has brought out the worst in people. I don’t think I am telling anyone anything they don’t know when I say that. It has become a “we vs. them” atmosphere where any difference of any kind seems to immediately pit people against one another. It’s exhausting.
But recently, something beautiful happened to me, and I’m here to tell you about it.
Love Through Differences
Last month, I went back to school to work towards a secondary education certification I’ve dreamed about for a long time. It just so happens to be in the complementary (i.e., alternative) medicine realm. Going into it as a very traditional, conservative Christian woman, I knew that I would be bombarded with many new-age explanations of God’s creation. And honestly, that’s fine. I am well versed in separating the wheat from the chaff, so to speak.
But invariably, with new-age worldviews, come the people that hold them. Let me remind you that dismissing ideas and dismissing people are two completely different things.
Last month, I was on a Zoom call with my class when one woman reached out to me directly to ask for more information on something I shared in class. We exchanged numbers, and that weekend we chatted and laughed on the phone for almost two hours.
We are complete opposites in almost every realm. I believe Jesus is the ONLY way to heaven, and she believes all gods are the same god. I am a conservative; she is a self-proclaimed socialist. She’s never been married nor had children, and I’ve been a wife for 17 years and a mother for 15. I am a total homebody, and she is constantly traveling the world. I could eat steak and bacon for every meal, and she’s a vegetarian. She explains our friendship as yin and yang – opposites attract. I believe God brings people into our lives for a reason.
And you know what? Despite our differences, she’s become a dear friend, anyway. We laugh and encourage each other, anyway. She’s the first one I call when I’m struggling with something in school, anyway. We pass notes (text) in class and giggle at our fellow classmates together, anyway. We are different on every level, and I love her, anyway.
Love Them Anyway
We, as Christians, are not called to judge people. We are not called to shun anyone or surround ourselves only with people who hold all the same views. How do we expect to spread the gospel when we refuse to even have conversations with people different from us? That approach to life is ugly, reprehensible, and not in the spirit of the Jesus that I know. Who. Am. I. to not love another human being when Jesus looked at my retched, black-hearted sin and said, “I died for you, too.”?
Jesus dined with tax collectors and prostitutes. He touched the lepers, broke custom and spoke with women, and took time for little children. He used drunkards, murderers, adulterers, and other everyday people to show His glory. So, who are we to dismiss anyone for anything? Are you perpetuating the view that Christians are just bitter individuals who fail the second most important commandment – to love others as you love yourself?
If You Deserve Love, So Does Everyone Else
As human beings, I know it comes naturally to create a war of division where there is disagreement. Loving them anyway doesn’t mean you forget your convictions or stop believing that Christ is true north. Love is not the same thing as agreement. Loving someone simply means loving them. Right where they’re at. Right where you’re at. John 13:35 says, “By this, all people will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another.”
And you know what’s shocking? When you go into these relationships with no prejudice, it is easy to love as Jesus does. I love people because I know what I look like on the inside. I’ve messed up. Old me did things that current me disagrees with. I’ve held different political views than what I do now. I’ve dabbled with new-age ideologies. I sin daily. So, who am I to dismiss anyone? Who are you?
1 Timothy 1:15 nails it: “This saying is reliable and deserves full acceptance: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I’m the biggest sinner of all.”
We Love Because God First Loved Us
Need another gut punch?
“We love because God first loved us. Those who say, “I love God” and hate their brothers or sisters are liars. After all, those who don’t love their brothers or sisters whom they have seen can hardly love God whom they have not seen! This commandment we have from him: Those who claim to love God ought to love their brother and sister also.” – 1 John 4:19-21
Here’s another one in case it hasn’t sunk in yet. I love this no-nonsense interpretation of Matthew 5:43-48 from The Message. Still, I encourage you to read it in different translations as well.
“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the supple moves of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that. “In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”
Love Thy Neighbor
Now get out there and live as Jesus loves you. Love on strangers, engage in conversation with people different from you, then sit back and marvel at how amazing God is to create this incredible world full of beautiful people. You just might learn something.
About the Author
Melanie Lemus is the Communication Specialist and resident editor for author Dr. Jeannine Bennett. She lives in Virginia with her wonderful husband and witty daughter. Melanie loves her freedom – in Christ and America. She’s passionate about natural health and homeopathy, and she’s always down to take a hike through the mountains.