Grace and Peace to you.
Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love…. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another…. Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.
—1 John 4. 7-8, 11, 20-21
The word “love” appears 28 times in this passage from 1 John. Can there be any doubt that the heart of Christianity is to love as Christ has loved us? It is not to believe certain things, to be right about doctrinal matters, but to love. You may argue about theology with someone who is totally wrong, but unless you do it with love, you’re totally wrong. You can’t condemn those who are evil; all you can do is love them. The talk you will hear about God “hating” certain sinners is nothing more than a sad projection of people’s hate onto God. God is love, not hate. God is not even a little love watered down with some judgment and hate, but pure, infinite unconditional love. And faith means living in that love, with that love, unconditionally.
I think of my friends and colleagues at our General Conference these days, the global gathering of United Methodists we hold every four years. We argue about things like rules and budgets and church structure and, of course, homosexuality. (Webster: church, n. A group of people who hear about love and argue about sex and money.) There always seems to be a lot of fear at those gatherings, a lot of judgment, a lot of anger (I’ve been to four of them). I bet Jesus is sad.
Friends, it’s not about being right. It’s not about winning the argument. It’s not about preserving the institution of the church. It’s about loving people. Loving bigots and queers and tyrants and welfare queens and children and child soldiers and child molesters and neighbors and strangers and ourselves, like Jesus did, even loving those who you believe are destroying the church, or the world. If we don’t love, love actually, in practice, for real—then the rest of or faith is just cheap wrapping paper and we should throw it away.
Practice love today. Stand for justice, speak the truth, embrace the outcast, cry out for the voiceless, confront the powers, sound the trumpets so the walls may come down; but do it with love. That alone will cleanse our souls, reform the church, and save the world. Love as the crucified Christ has loved us, and you will know resurrection.
Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes