… let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. (1 John 3:18)
One of my favorite stories, which I have told countless times before, is this:
There is an old legend about the author of the gospel of John. Unlike most of the disciples, he lived to be a very old man, with a school full of students who lived their lives together, learning about Jesus. The old teacher would tell his students, Love one another. He would say this every time he saw them – love one another, love one another, love one another. He said it so often that finally one of his young students got so fed up with hearing the words that he retorted: love, love, love, love, love, love, love… why are you always telling us to love? After pausing for a moment, while the student caught his breath, and smiling kindly the old teacher replied, It is because that is what my Lord commanded me to do. If you do nothing else, it will be enough.
This letter comes from the same school of writers as that gospel author and grapples with the same questions. It even goes a step further by pointing out that our belief in God will be inextricably intertwined with the love our lives display. We cannot have belief without love. Quite a contrast to a “Christian culture” that tells us that lip-service belief in Jesus is all that is necessary.
At the heart of John’s gospel, this letter, and our faith is a concept that takes the lesson even further. It is the life of Jesus. His choices displayed a type of love that goes so incredibly beyond what we feel is appropriate, fair, or “right.”
To truly follow Jesus, displaying our belief in him by living the love of God in this life, means that we will embrace everyone. Not just the “good children.” Not just the ones who dress traditionally. Not just the ones who make us comfortable. We will embrace anyone and everyone – and most especially those that the world and the “church” tells us not to.
So, if you want to live a life that really follows the true Christ (not the meek, mild, and benign Sunday School version), actively love in such a way that people will be offended by all the people you let in. Then you will truly get to see what it means to love like Jesus.