Whenever I write or talk about love, someone gets mad at me. As sure as anything, I will hear about how wrong I am to love “those people.” Better still someone will tell me that loving really looks like exclusion, condemnation, shaming, or belittling. Whenever I speak of love, there’s always a line of people who prefer I teach people to judge.
And I totally get that!
I may be alone in this, but I can’t make it through the day without judging someone. I judge the drivers in front of me – they’re driving too slowly. I judge the drivers behind me – they’re driving too fast. I judge people who weigh more and people who weigh less. I judge people who dress fancy and people who don’t dress well enough. I judge people who are too conservative. I judge people who are too liberal. The shameful reality of my life is that I’m judgmental, even when I’m not trying to be judgmental (especially to people who refuse to use the Oxford comma: Neanderthals).
You don’t have to admit it, and heck, it may not be the same for you, but I suspect many of us have a reflex to judge that’s as simple and certain as our reflex to blink. We don’t think about it. We just do it.
Yet when we do it, we are working in opposition to the teachings of Jesus.
If Jesus is doing anything through His words and actions, He is rearranging our instinct to choose judgment over love, as His brother James says, “mercy over judgment.” In Jesus’ mind, judgment should be a chore and love should be a reflex.
Love is the central teaching of Jesus and the Apostle Paul follows His lead.
When Paul talks about what is most important he says, “Here’s what’s most important: ‘faith, hope and love and the greatest of these… is love.” Perhaps even more shocking is that Jesus says, this is how other people will know we are His disciples…if we“love one another.”
Turns out, Christians will NOT be known as Jesus’ disciples by the votes we cast or our positions on policy; we won’t be known by our church doctrines or whether we “leveraged our leadership.” We won’t even be known by moral accomplishments. Jesus says that we will be known by our love!
Before we can do anything and call it Christian, we are asked to love.
Those who follow Jesus are expected to love first – without hesitation, without condition, without any “Yeah, I know, but what about ________?” When Jesus is asked what the greatest command is, He says, “Love God and love your neighbor.”
But Christians don’t always act that way. Christians act like the greatest command is to tell everyone what all the other commands are (Tweet That). And while ignorance of God’s will has never been helpful we cannot bring others under the reign of God by ignoring the first rule of God: love.
All that to say this: There is someone you judge rather than love and your inability to love them is a you problem.
I believe Jesus is neither naïve or stupid. He knows terrorism exist. He knows some people identify as LGBT. He knows Christians disagree about theology. He knows there are Democrats and Republicans. He knows some people are Pro-Israel, anti-Israel, or don’t care about Israel. Jesus knows some people pay more taxes while others pay less. Jesus knows there are racist and sexist and bigots and backstabbers. Jesus knows each of us will have some person or group we don’t like, but He gives us no caveat: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
We are free to have our convictions about every item and issue, we are free — even encouraged, when appropriate — to work for just ends. We are not free, however to hold convictions, regardless of what they are, in the absence of love (Tweet That). Jesus knows what history should have taught us: Conviction without love ends in oppression.
If you’re like me and love is not yet a fully functioning reflex; if it’s something you have to ponder and discuss; debate and deliberate, then that is a sign of the work we have remaining until Christ is fully formed is us.
It is time to rearrange our reflexes…even for people who refuse to use the Oxford comma.