While we do a decent job of over-complicating what it means to be a Christ follower; I promise you it is really not that complicated.
To understand fully what it meant to be saved, we have this great conversation recorded in the book of Luke where an expert in the law attempted to take Jesus to task. He stood up and he called Jesus out, asking him “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?“
Knowing that the lawyer would know the answer as it was written, Jesus responded with His own question, “What is written in the law?“
I love Jesus’ response as it forces the scholar into a verbal confession of the law as he understands it. It really brings him to a place of having to personally face the reality of the law he became so intimate with through his studies.
The response is one that we’ve all come to embrace, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’“
In essence, our salvation is wrapped up in two simple things…
Love God with your everything and love your neighbor as you love yourself.
Everything literally revolves around these two commands. Our love puts us in relationship; drawing us to obedience, service and mission. They all hinge on love. Without love they are empty works. Yet if we do not find ourselves at a place of obedience, service and mission we may not truly be in love. It is one big circle.
Unfortunately easy things were made to be over-complicated.
Loving our neighbor can be a fairly easy task when you have good neighbors. I know because we have some fantastic neighbors around our home! But what about when you have bad neighbors? What about when you have neighbors who play loud music all night or who don’t respect your property?
When we jump back to that conversation that Jesus was having with the law scholar we see that the lawyer had another question for Jesus, “who is my neighbor?”
Inevitably the lawyer knew that some people were just unlovable. It feels as if he is looking for an ‘out’, a way to pick and choose who to love. Unfortunately the lawyer didn’t get the answer he was likely looking for.
Jesus tells of a Samaritan who is journeying down the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. To the lawyer listening, this meant inevitable doom to the man on the side of the road. There was no way a Samaritan would stop to help this distressed traveler. There were high tensions between the Jews and the Samaritans, so the Samaritan would have categorically been another bad guy in this story. However, to his surprise of the listener, the Samaritan saw the man and had compassion for him.
Then Jesus turned the conversation completely upside down. He said “go and do likewise.”
In other words He said, “go love the bad guy.“
A conversation that started about others, who is in and who is out, was reframed as a conversation about ourselves.
The question was no longer ‘who is a neighbor’; the question became ‘how do we act as a neighbor towards everyone’.
Think about it.
Are we really able to love everyone we come in contact with even when they are the bad guy?
Thankfully for us, we all do a very good job of dehumanizing people in order to bypass the simplicity of the command.
Think about when we slip behind the wheel of our cars in traffic? How do we react when another person tries to merge in front of us or makes a ‘mindless’ move in traffic? Do we lift our foot to give them the space or do we speed up to block them out?
Are our menacing looks out our side windows to other motorists looks of love? Are our horns blaring of anger shouting “I love you!”?
It is as if we objectify people once they sit in a car. They are no longer people. They are no longer allowed to make mistakes. They are no longer lovable.
Yet Jesus told us to love our neighbor.
Jesus didn’t tell us to love our neighbor when they make make the right decisions or when they make us happy; on the contrary Jesus reminded us to love our enemies (and I can tell by the way many of us drive, other drivers are our enemies)!
Or how about how we love others on Facebook?
We are all bold apologists behind our computer screens and keyboards, reckless with our words as we trample over others in an attempt to speak truth. We reduce people to simple avatars and personas so that we can crush with our words to elevate what we are proselytizing.
Facebook becomes our outpost for ranting about that bad waiter we had, the politician we disagree with or that ‘dummy’ we passed in traffic. We make people objects so that we don’t have to love them.
We overcomplicate simplicity.
Love does not dehumanize.
Love is love, to all people, at all times. To follow Jesus means to love those who can’t reciprocate. It means to love those that agitate us and anger us. It means to love those that we disagree with.
Love does not mean that we don’t stand for truth and righteousness. We can love and we can defend at the same time. Love demands truth, and truth demands love. That is another conversation for another time! What it does mean is that we take serious what Christ said. That when he tells us to love our neighbors, and our enemies, we understand the depth and life found in it.
Jesus’ words are not for us to pick and choose. If we follow Jesus, we are love…both those who deserve it, and those who don’t.
Because in reality, none of us deserve to be loved, yet He loves us anyway.