Monday, July 19, 2010

Spiritual Hiccups - Love

In his letter to the Christians in Rome, Paul says, "Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law... Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law." Jesus also speaks of loving one another, and he says that the two greatest commandments are to love God with all our being and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Jesus also refuses to limit the scope of our neighbor to people who are like us, as his parable of the "Good Samaritan" shows.

Given all the talk of love in the New Testament, you would think this would be the defining mark of Christians. Even people who weren't Christian would say, "Well I don't agree with their beliefs, but they sure are the lovingnest folks I've ever seen." So why is it that we so often come off to others as narrow-minded, judgmental, and shrill? Why are there so many Christians who seem angry much of the time?

In the US, I sometimes get the sense that many Christians are angry at what they perceive as a loss of power, prestige, and influence in our society. They're mad about rising pluralism and secularism, and they want to "take their country back." But Jesus refused to be the political Messiah that many of his followers wanted him to be. Jesus never said anything about aspiring to earthly power and influence. Rather he talked about being willing to suffer and give up everything for the sake of the Kingdom. He said to resist evil with love and to pray for those who persecute us.

You likely heard that Gandhi at one point in his life seriously considered becoming a Christian, and he frequently drew on Jesus and the New Testament. But because of some very negative experiences with Christians, he rejected the faith. Once when asked why he rejected Christ considering how much he seemed to emulate him, Gandhi responded, “Oh, I don’t reject your Christ. I love your Christ. It’s just that so many of you Christians are so unlike your Christ."

I have to think that if we focused more on love, Gandhi, and lots of others, might not have thought this way.

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