Something that's come to the forefront of my attention recently is just how much the world needs to see and experience the love of Jesus. There are a lot of things happening in the world right now, from controversial politicians to the refugee crisis to gun control issues to the sex trafficking epidemic and so on and so on, and it seems that there is just so much darkness surrounding us, making it easy to understand why people might be feeling a little — or a lot — hopeless. And hopelessness, in a way, is like a disease. It infects and spreads and wears people down, bit by bit until they can hardly see the light and goodness that are present in the world.
And living in the time that we do means, I think, that there's just a lot of confusion about who God is. Is he cruel, judgmental, full of wrath, and if so, is that why the world is so dark and hard and evil? Or is He loving, kind, and full of grace, because if that's true, where is that on display? Plenty of people grow up or grew up in some form of the Church, learning about God and about Jesus. Many "know" the basics, yet have chosen not to believe, and I really think that a choice like that — to not believe — may be two-fold: they see evil in the world, and can't bring themselves to believe in a God who would allow it (or "cause it" — another topic for another day); and/or they don't see God amongst the people who claim Him... which is a very huge and very real problem.
I'm currently in London, and recently watched an episode of a BBC documentary called "Miriam's Big American Adventure" that featured Miriam Margolyes (who played Professor Sprout in the Harry Potter series!), following her adventures through the middle region of the US. In this particular episode she found herself amidst a few different groups of people who called themselves Christians, one of which was the leader of an alt-right race-hate group. PLEASE tell me you see the juxtaposition in that statement. An individual who preaches racism and says he follows God? Hell no, you guys. This simply cannot exist, because God is love and calls us to love. I wanted to throw up watching such a hate-filled person claim the name of Jesus. I wanted to yell and scream and cry all at the same time. This man did not and could not represent the God that I know and the Jesus that I love, and it breaks my heart to think that so many who do not know Him could think that all Christians might (or do) look like this: hate-filled, ignorant, brainwashed, self-preserving, awful.
Here's the thing, though: the Jesus that I know and love, the one who radically changed my life, He preaches love.
"Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" And He said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Matthew 22:36-39
"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." John 13:34-35
"This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you." John 15:12-14
"Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes." 1 John 2:9-11
"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love." 1 John 4:7-8
While I understand that much of these Scriptures were said in the company and context of fellow believers, I do believe that the love we have — only because of and from Jesus — should be shown and shared with all people, everywhere, all the time. Love is what draws people in. Love is what changes hearts and lives. Love is what ultimately wins. And God is love.
So I have to challenge all of us, including myself. If you claim to know and love Jesus but have any feelings of hate toward any person or group, check yourself (before you wreck yourself). Jesus calls His people, over and over again, to love one another as He has loved us. And if you aren't a Christian (and have made it this far), the challenge remains the same: to love one another. Regardless of race, socio-economic class, gender, geographical location, whatever. Because we are all just messy humans trying to live this life the best that we can, and I'm just thankful that I am doing that alongside my Jesus.