The inspiration for this weekâ€™s thoughts comes from two responses to last weekâ€™s thoughts. Last week, I offered my perspective on the November 2 general election – which I still consider to be a disaster of immense proportions – with a reminder that even when we donâ€™t win, God requires us to keep trying to make a difference. One response was from a Tea Party member named Mark who was disagreed with me and said, â€œAs a white Christian, I am called upon (by) God to love all men, regardless of their race.â€ The other response was from Drew Collins, a local clergy colleague whose political views – to put it kindly – are right of center and who was â€œdisgustedâ€ by my â€œrace baiting.â€
Drewâ€™s comments are easily understood and dismissed, for the insecure are usually allergic to the light of truth and say irritating things to turn that light elsewhere. Markâ€™s comments, though, led me to offer a few thoughts about the nature of real love.
The Greek language in which the New Testament was first recorded has three words that are expressed in English as â€œlove.â€ The first, eros, is what we would call lust – simple physical desire. The second, philios, describes love for oneâ€™s nation or family or those of like mind – love that depends on the object of love being â€œloveable.â€ The third, agape, describes Godâ€™s love which is not dependent on desire or like mindedness, but love for others simply because they too are creations of God.
Jesus exemplified that love when He reached out to and bettered the lives of the sick, troubled, poor and others who were cast aside by the self righteous â€œreligiousâ€ people of His day. Jesus practiced that love when He drove those practicing personally beneficial free market capitalism at the expense of the poor and needy out of the Temple of the Lord. Jesus espoused that love when He died for the sins of those who first praised Him and then rejected and ridiculed Him. My personal definition of that love is found in my sons, both of whom I have loved dearly since they were born. I didnâ€™t especially like it when they were infants who woke up at 3 am loudly demanding to be fed and have their diapers changed or when they put me through all of the changes related to childhood and adolescence, but I still loved them.
If we are to be the church today, then we still have to practice Godâ€™s love. We must do so by reaching out to those considered unworthy and unlovable by this world and leading them to Christ anyway. We must do so by bettering the lives of others, whether or not weâ€™re praised for doing so. We must do so by standing up for those who canâ€™t stand up for themselves and by speaking Godâ€™s truth to those who try to use God as a convenient pawn for their political games or to use their â€œrighteousnessâ€ to justify hatred, division and bigotry.
We arenâ€™t children of a weak and impotent Christ who only spoke about peace and love. Weâ€™re children of a bold and outspoken Christ who challenged the religious and political powers of His day, confronted those who advocated but didnâ€™t practice good religion, and proclaimed that the blessings of Godâ€™s kingdom are open to all who believe, regardless of color, culture or economic status.
The next two years hold great political and social challenges, but as people of God saved through the grace extended by the Lord Jesus Christ, we must accept the challenge. Weâ€™ll have our share of critics who will question our motives or religion, but we have to serve God anyway and even love our critics, remembering our ancestors in the faith who first sang in reference to their â€œChristianâ€ owners, â€œeverybody talkinâ€™ â€˜bout heaven ainâ€™t goinâ€™ there.â€ Two Sundays ago, when the sermon was about reaching out to and loving everyone, one of our parishoners asked me on her way out of church, â€œDoes that mean I have to love Senator DeMint?â€ Although itâ€™s hard to say, the answer is that even if we donâ€™t like what he does and make it plain that we donâ€™t, yes we do, and if we love Jesus as Jesus loved us, yes we can!