Inconvenient love

 Photo by  Matt Collamer

Photo by Matt Collamer

If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
— 1 John 3:17-18

Just as a reminder, this post is part of a series on some of the different priorities that characterize the Christian life.

This week, I want to talk about some practical ways we can actually live out the deep love we’re called to as Christians.

As we saw last week, this isn’t an easy kind of love.  

To start off, here are some key points on what love according to Scripture looks like when lived out practically:

  • Caring for the material and emotional needs of those who are marginalized, lonely and hurting
  • Making space for these people in our lives; welcoming them into our homes as friends
  • Wanting the best for our enemies too
  • Approaching others with humility and vulnerability; we’re no better than anyone else

RESPONDING TO NEEDS

Scripture commands us to put others before ourselves, not just when it’s convenient or when we’ll get something in return, but all the time.

Based on his time on earth, it’s evident how much Jesus cares for people that our society casts aside. If we truly wish to emulate him, we need to adopt his attitude towards those who are alone, unloved and abandoned.

I recently interviewed a young woman who has been photographing people experiencing homelessness to humanize them and share their stories. Her portraits are a powerful reminder that circumstances do not determine a person’s value.

And yet, marginalized people are so often ignored. Each human has infinite worth, and this injustice should spark outrage among Christians.

We are called to respond.

Whether this means donating to organizations that are working towards social change, offering our own services, or taking time to get to know people on the streets—each action matters.

I wish we found it easy to truly care for everyone. But sadly, our flawed human nature often trips up our best intentions.

We get stuck looking at the surface of someone—judging them based on the potential rewards of the relationship, or the level of difficulty involved.

If someone is hard to talk to or challenging to deal with, all we can think about is how we don’t have time in our busy schedules for that kind of commitment.

However, that can change.

The Holy Spirit can enable us to recognize the intrinsic value of every human we encounter. If we ask him, he can strip away the things we deem important until all we see is dignity and beauty contained within every person.

God created every single person, body and soul. This means they have a purpose on earth, just as you do.

WELCOMING THEM HOME

One powerful way to bless others—especially the lonely and vulnerable—is to invite them over for a meal.

In a Western culture where we tend to meet people in coffee shops rather than having them over to our place, it feels extra special to be invited to someone’s home.

What if we viewed our houses not as places where we can hide from the world, but as avenues through which to lavishly serve and encourage others?

Then Jesus said to his host, ’When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.’
— Luke 14:12-14

DO GOOD TO THOSE WHO HURT YOU

If we truly embrace the sense of worth God places on each life, this will change how we view our enemies.

Imagine letting go of resentment and anger and being able to truly wish the best for those who’ve hurt us.

Personally, the standard here often feels too high. But it wouldn’t be there if it were not attainable through Christ. That is an exciting thought!

Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary:
‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
— Romans 12:19-21

We can let go of our desire for revenge because we believe that justice is ultimately in God’s hands and that one day every wrong will be made right.

Our task, then, is to extend impartial kindness and care to all without judgement.

LET’S BE REAL

Another huge aspect of loving people is being vulnerable ourselves. If Christians give off the impression that they somehow have it all together, then something is seriously wrong.

We can’t build trusting, helpful relationships with people who are broken until they know our brokenness too.

It’s time we get off our pedestals and meet people where they’re at.

The beauty of Christ’s forgiveness is that it is never based on our merit, but on his great love.

Moreover, our own stories of God working through us are made more powerful by the fact that we ourselves are weak and incapable of change.

If we act like we’re perfect we’re denying our daily need for Christ.

But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
— 2 Corinthians 12:9

I titled this post "inconvenient love" because that's what it can feel like a lot of the time. It’s inconvenient to stop and chat with someone who is homeless or take the time to help an elderly person with their groceries.

It's easier not to engage with someone who is different, or who could seem like a burden. It's more relaxing to go home and watch TV instead of cooking a meal for guests.

Inconvenient love means shifting aside your own agenda to make room.

I’m honestly not good at this kind of love. But I want to get better at it.

Read part five of this series.