I am Spiritual but not Religious. This has become a declaration growing in popularity in our culture. What does it mean for the 20% of our neighbors and friends to claim this identity?
Jesus is more than a buddy. That may seem obvious to you. However, last night in class there was one powerful aha moment. We are all about relationships. We focus as a culture and a church on having quality relationships. Our faith may be described as those who have a relationship with Jesus.
But that is not what the creed of the early church. Apostle Paul did not write his relationship with Jesus. The early creeds like the Apostles Creed did not invite us to have a relationship with Jesus. Their message was simple and direct. Jesus is Lord.
Love God. Love Self. Love Others, Including your Enemies.
So what is the result of living life this way? When Jesus did it, he left a wake of grace, mercy and peace blessing all. When Jesus did it the future was made better for all.
July 20, 1955. March 25, 1956. May 12, 1979. June 5, 1982. November 14, 1981. May 19, 1984
On each of these dates, I entered into covenants of love. These dates reflect the days of my birth, baptism, marriage, ordination, and birth of children. I entered into loving relationships of family and faith on those days. Here is one thing they have in common. I have needed to renew my capacity for love in all those relationships.
Love can change us. That is the good news. Love can also twist us. That is the bad news. What we will do for love is motivation for so much positive in our life. But it can also take us from who we, even the best of what we are, and make of us a broken image of what God had in mind when we were created.
Do I have to like all who Jesus calls me to love? No. Do I have to agree with all I love for the sake of Jesus? No. Do I have to agree or accept all that others do I am required to love? No. So what is unconditional love?
Unconditional love as Jesus lived it did not at all suggest that he accepted what anyone did. The unconditional nature of Jesus love is discovered in two primary ways, inclusion and purpose.
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you. Matthew 5:44
Jesus loved selflessly. He loved others when there seemed to be little pay back to him. Sometimes, his willingness to act lovingly (with respect, inclusively, and care for the needs of the other) is what brought upon him the greatest trouble with the established order.
Jesus continuously pushed his disciples to love others. Not only each other and not only those who were like them. Jesus pushed them to love even their enemies. That statement on Sunday brought about the deepest questions. How do we love those who have hurt us and sometimes harder, those who have hurt those whom we love?
Abbreviating a much longer needed conversation we will have at a later date, nothing about loving as Jesus loved calls us to be complicate in unhealthy behavior of any kind. Christ love calls for holy boundaries and high accountability. We must be among the first to call out others who hurt others, including ourselves. We must protect those who are victimized or hurt or worse. The church has too long ,in a misguided understanding of compassion, allowed those who are unhealthy to set the agenda in families, community and the church. That has to stop!
Selfless love placed Jesus in danger and ultimately brought about his death. Yet, his death was demonstration of God’s love for us. Jesus death brought about resurrection and ultimately the defeat of death and sin. It is not the appropriate interpretation however to believe our calling is to serve as martyrs who sacrifice so sin and dysfunction can go on unabated. Healthy Holy Christ centered love will not excuse or tolerate abuse. However it can heal you and restore you once abuse is no longer allowed to continue.
My belief is the selfless love I receive from Jesus calls us to love others more honestly. We are free from taking on the hate and cruelty we find in others.
My experience is that selfless love is a calling we continually pursue and rarely live perfectly very long. However, that gift and calling makes all the difference in how we live our lives. I may never love with perfect selflessness. But I love better and more powerfully as long as it remains a gift from Jesus I cherish and chose to emulate.
What do you think about selfless love?