Love All


8 words. Last week we concentrated on the first of these 8 words “worship fully.” We also introduced our Advent Mission Offering which is going to the relief work in NYC after Superstorm Sandy.

Several of you said last week was the first time you had ever connected worship to the way you serve Christ. I’m sorry it took me so long to bring it up. As is written in scripture,  when you visit the sick, give a cup of water, or box groceries at the crisis center you are doing this to Jesus. You are not doing whatever you are doing for yourself but for the greater work of God, this is worship. To worship fully is to see our lives are the offering.

This week we turn our attention to the last two words LOVE ALL.

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)

Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. (I John 3:15-16)

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. (I Peter 4:8)

There is a great deal in the Bible we don’t understand. In one place it says this, in another place it says this—but there are some things that the Bible speaks loudly and frequently about and love is one of them.

Love covers sin. Love calls us to lay down our lives for others. They will know who we belong to by our love. I suspect even in our diverse crowd we all agree God has called us to love. It’s not the first word in the phrase we struggle with—it’s the second word “Love all.”

Once when Jesus answered a lawyer’s question the lawyer tried to limit his responsibilities by asking Jesus “who is my neighbor?” Of course the lawyer knew Jesus was calling him to love—and he is willing to do that—to a point, but he wants or needs some boundaries. Jesus you said I should “love my neighbor as myself, well who is my neighbor?” Good question we would not want to love anyone we did not absolutely have to. Jesus then proceeds with a story about a man who is robbed and beaten. Three men have the opportunity to help this wounded man. Two bypass the wounded man, only one is willing to give time and money to move the crime victim from the gutter back to work. Only one is willing to spend any sweat on this victim of circumstances. Jesus asked the lawyer, “tell me, you’ve heard my yarn which of these three was neighborly to the victim?” The man who gave compassion was the lawyer’s answer.

Jesus was saying, I want tell you who your neighbor is, but I will show you what being a neighbor is—it is having compassion—not for the person next door, but having compassion to whomever is in need of compassion.

In a similar fashion, we trying to justify the people we don’t love might ask at this hour, “But Lord what do you mean by all?”

I’m with you, we like to parse words. We’ve all got a list of people we don’t like. In some cases there may be actual names on our list—–Mary, Nancy, Donald, or Mitch. But most of the time it is just a specific but unnamed group of people—–people who brag, people who take advantage of other people, people who are snobs, people who are Muslim. Now, our list is not too long, but we all have this list. It’s not written down, but it is a list.

I ask myself “why do I have a list?” As I did some Advent soul searching what became apparent is my list is my security blanket. I only know who I am—if I have a “them” someone I stand against. I must have a list, it is a mark of self-identification. The “them” must be my opposition—or even my enemy. What am I without someone or something I hate? Can I stand for something and not have an enemy?

Now some of you may think hate is too strong a word. I agree, it is unpleasant sounding. In our minds we divide our social relationships into sub sets—–family (people I must love, but sometimes I don’t even like), friends (people who usually agree with me on most things, easy to be around) folks (people who I have no emotional attachment to but I must speak to when I see them) strangers (people I don’t want to know and will not go to the trouble of knowing until I need something they have) people who do things I don’t like (they drink too much, they are lazy, etc). Notice how we don’t have anybody we hate. In our social divisions we make it clear—we would like you if you didn’t behave that way. It’s not you, it’s your behavior. We are not at odds with you but with your behavior. I suspect this is really just a way to justify our feelings.

We know it’s not healthy or “permitted” in our faith to hate so we replace hate with the softer “we don’t like their behavior.”

Yet the question remains does God want me to love ALL people. “For God so love the world.” The implication is God loves all people but does this apply to me? While we are imperfect, flawed, and sinful we are called to love ALL. It may never happen, but it is nonetheless our standard. We are followers of Jesus—Jesus loved all, we are asked to do the same.

Now I know we still have our list, but it is time to start narrowing this list down.

Who’s on your list? Your sister-in-law, your boss, people of other faiths, homosexuals, young people, old people, overweight people, people who smoke, people who are arrogant, religious fanatics, non-religious fanatics. I want answer for your list and you will not be held accountable for my list—but the scripture does say—-  just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. We are loved unconditionally and we are ask to love in the same fashion.

This Christmas let’s start erasing our list. This Christmas let’s give the gift of love. You can think about groups if you like but I ask, is there someone you struggle with? Someone you have a hard time loving?  Do something loving for them. It doesn’t need to be a purchased gift, it can be a card, a note, or a dutch lunch, but take a step to “loving one more another” who knows what might happen.

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