“An empty stomach has no ears.”
Sometimes I watch the debates happening, the screaming and name-calling and ridiculing, and I feel absolute shame for the people who are supposed to be Jesus followers. I am ashamed for myself and I am ashamed for my brothers and sisters.
I also believe that some of the conflicts come from a serious disagreement over definitions.
Today, I want to be clear what I believe.
Jesus, as depicted in the Bible, is God.
The Bible itself is not God, but it tells us truth about God.
I believe in Jesus because of my experiences with him. When I say “Jesus loves me,” I know that experientially, not merely because the Bible says so. When I say, “Jesus has forgiven me,” I mean I have had the experience of forgiveness, not only the information. When I say, “Jesus will always give me grace,” I know that because I have told Jesus to “f*** off,” for a long stretch of time, and instead Jesus stayed with me and refused to abandon me.
I’m not debating whether or not you have had these experiences. I’m not even debating whether or not I have–I’m simply telling you, yes, I have.
If it sounds like I’m making really obvious statements, hang on.
I believe the Gospel that Jesus preached and that we, as his followers, try to live, tells us to love one another.
Nope, don’t go away yet.
Jesus even spelled out the ethos of this love:
“Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
Notice that’s not “do to others what you think they might do to you, if your roles were reversed,” or “do to others what you think they deserve or have earned or have coming to them.”
If I were starving, I would have you give me food. If my baby were dying, I would have you save my baby, if you could. If my marriage were imploding, I would have you help, if you had any means of doing so. If I were trying to escape a country at war to save my children, I would have you help me–I would have you help me save my children.
Therefore, if your children are starving, I will try to help them have food. If your baby is dying, I will do what I can to help save your baby. If your marriage is imploding, I am going to try to help, if there is any way I can. If you are trying to escape from a country at war to save your children from dying there…I am going to help you save your children.
That is how Jesus says to love one another.
Any Jesus follower who limits “love one another” to “try to get the person to become a Christian” has not fully understood love the way Jesus talked about, nor the way Jesus loved.
Yes, I am ashamed of the debates I am seeing within the groups of people who call themselves “Christians.” I am ashamed because I believe we should seek unity, we should respect and love and hear one another and try to understand our disagreements. I am ashamed because we’re making following Jesus look unattractive, or even appalling, and they don’t know us by our love for one another.
But I am also ashamed, frankly, because I hear people who claim to follow Jesus talking in such a way that they do not seem to understand the commandment to love one another. They act as if they have not read Matthew 25, in which Jesus identifies himself as those who need food and water, who don’t have a home and live on the streets, who are fleeing a war-ravaged country with children in tow, who are dying in a hospital bed or are imprisoned.
It’s bizarrre, but in Matthew 25, Jesus doesn’t stop to explain how the prisoner–which is him–was framed and sentenced unjustly, though innocent. Jesus doesn’t address the prisoner’s innocence or guilt at all. He doesn’t discuss whether the sick person made poor life choices nor whether the hungry person was irresponsible. He doesn’t even ask whether or not the stranger got into the country legally.
He says this:
I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.
And here is his conclusion, the wild twist at the end:
‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’
All this means, to me, that the Gospel of Jesus Christ embodies both telling people about God’s saving love and forgiveness of our sins and loving people by doing for them as we would have them do for us.
My blog is named, “Grace Is Greater.” None of us love perfectly, none of us fully do to others as we actually would have them do to us. Jesus was perfect and we’re not. We are called to faithfulness, not perfection. I’ve lived among impoverished people for seven years and every day ask if I’m screwing this up.
I’m also not saying that I have a fulll grasp of the truth. I’m sure I have blind spots where I have not yet understood the whole Gospel.
But a person arguing that these actions are not how we follow Jesus, that the Gospel does not command us to love the least among us, that we should first measure people’s worthiness before deciding how (or if) we love them, or that certain people are outside the parameters of whom God calls us to love?
I have to question if that person understands the Gospel.