Love: Is it an Oversimplification of What is Means to Follow Jesus?

Happy Valentine’s Day!

This is a good day for me ask myself an important question.

Is it an over simplification to sum up living life in way of Jesus with the word, “love”?

My beliefs and faith practices have undergone such a dramatic change over the last few years that every now and then I stop and ask myself what I really do believe at this point in my life.

Evaluation is a good process in that it tests our beliefs and keeps them up-to-date. Some might consider that heresy. I consider it authenticity, because any thing that is true can withstand serious questioning.

Christians have a mixed record on loving people. The list is pretty long: crusades to retake the holy land, official mandated state religions, the burning of witches, Protestant/Catholic wars, acceptance of slavery, and choosing political preferences over the true values of their faith. That’s the ugly side.

The positive side includes building hospitals and orphanages all over the world, initiating institutions of higher learning and massive disaster relief organizations.

Modern Evangelicalism became famous for being anti abortion, anti gay, and pro most any conservative policy position or politician. Sadly, we who were suppose to famous for our love, because of our self-appointed role as guardians of national morality, became famous for what many people interpreted as our hate.

Jesus, on the other hand, did become famous for his love of those marginalized by society. He also became famous for calling out those who thought they were the standard bearers of righteousness. He was received with open arms by the powerless, while religious aristocrats sought ways to kill him.

The stark contrast between Jesus and the church has been the topic of many a blog post, here and elsewhere. It’s ironic. It’s an indictment of the institutional church, but it’s also an inspiration to fall in love with a radically loving Jesus.

But love is a huge challenge for us because living it out does not come very naturally.

When life takes a turn south, it’s hard to hang onto the concept of a loving God. When someone has disappointed us repeatedly, it’s hard to keep on loving. When we become disillusioned at our attempts at self-reformation, it is even hard to love our self.

When we catch just a glimpse of love, it fills us with a sense of awe.

We find God’s love in our failure. We experience it in the deep joy and commitment toward our marriage partner of many years. We bask in it when we are at peace with ourselves because we know we are loved no matter what.

Is summing up a live of faith in Jesus with the term “love” reductionist? Yes, it is, but it is also correct.

 

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” He answered, “‘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.’” Luke 10:27

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. John 13:34

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. Romans 13:8

Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. Romans 13:10

For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:14

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 1 John 4:9

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 1 John 4:16

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.    1 John 4:18

We love because He first loved us. 1 John 4:19

Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 1 John 4:20

And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister. 1 John 4:21

About Glenn

Glenn Hager is the author of An Irreligious Faith and Free Range Faith. He encourages independent minded people of faith through his writing, speaking, consulting, and one-on-one relationships.
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