“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:8 NIV).
February is a month associated with love. As a kid I remember hearts and cupids on the bulletin boards of my elementary school and candy hearts and the giving of Valentines. Love is a word that gets thrown around a lot. If people know something about Christianity, they know it calls us to act in love towards others.
But what does love look like? The impression often given is that love refuses to question another person’s behavior or to make them uncomfortable in any way. This is decidedly not the love of Jesus Christ. Somehow, he was able to stand for the absolute truth of God’s law and yet stand next to people in the midst of their impurity and love them.
It was this strange combination that so often led people to repentance. They recognized that Jesus was absolutely right about right and wrong and yet wasn’t using that rightness to gain an advantage over them, which is what judging does. Judging, as condemned by Jesus, is that which seeks to stand above the other. Instead, Jesus stood beside the other. He did this without ever compromising the standard of God’s law.
I confess that I struggle to do this. I am a sinner. I am tempted to water down God’s law to get along. I want people to like me, but I know this isn’t love either. This is self-centeredness. It is wanting to keep from being rejected. Jesus, however, risked being rejected because he loved people.
As Christians we’re called to learn how to love, to stand with people without compromising the truth. It isn’t easy, and it will mean being rejected by people coming from both directions, those of a judgmental spirit and those who want to compromise God’s standard of right and wrong.
Let me practice being loving now; God’s law doesn’t change. Right is right, and wrong is wrong. Yet, I don’t reject you for failing to live by God’s standard. I accept you as one loved by God, and I encourage you to live by God’s standard, because it is what is best for you. In fact, to keep living in a way contrary to God’s law is to indicate that you don’t know God because God is love.
I hope that you will practice loving me too, that you will accept me in spite of my sins but refuse to lower the standard for me. Instead, call me to rise up and live as God intended.
Beloved, let us love one another!
Valentine’s Day Blessings to you all!