Dangerously different people…
We live in a world brimming with rude manners, selfishness and poor intentions. At some point, we've all been let down, manipulated, bullied or criticized. And when we are backstabbed, heart-broken or betrayed, it’s empowering to hate the people who have hurt us. Often, our first reaction is to strike back or feel bitter. Maybe you’ve even wished someone was dead.
It’s a paradox to confess how much you “love for God,” but then dislike (or even despise) people. Worse yet degrade, criticise and or even condemn someone based on their beliefs, preferences or shortcomings. And by people, I mean everyone - mum, dad, partner, sibling, boss, co-worker, stranger, friend. That’s the thing - no one is exempt. We are called (no commanded) to love our neighbours in the same way we love our God.
John, one of Jesus’s best friends, makes it clear that you can’t love God and hate God’s people. And guess what? All people are God’s people. If we love God, we have to love others. So how do we love those we hate?
1 John 4:20 says “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.”
ULTIMATELY, THE WAY WE TREAT OTHERS DEMONSTRATES HOW MUCH WE REALLY LOVE GOD.
The way we accept others exemplifies the way God has accepted us through Christ. The way we forgive others demonstrates how much we truly understand the weight of what we have been forgiven for. The way we disagree with someone with a different point of view says a lot about our spiritual maturity and understand of God’s grace.
Love and acceptance don’t always equal support and agreement. There are people in my life (close and distant) that I choose to love and value, although I disagree with parts of their behaviour. It is a fallacy to believe that I cannot love you if I do not condone your behaviour.
Regardless, love is the mark of true faith, true Christianity.
And it is so much more than a word. Love is a verb. It’s an action. An outworking. It’s making time for those around you. It’s being there for a grieving friend. It’s praying for a sick stranger. It’s giving of your time and treasure. It’s being gracious with your closest family. It’s serving passionately His bride, the Church. It’s fighting against evil and injustice. It’s using your words to build up and empower, not cut down or criticise. It’s being compassionate to those you don’t agree with and continually showing and sharing the good news of JESUS.
There’s no mystery why the Bible has so much to say about stress, conflict, and reconciliation between believers. How could there not be friction in a family like ours?
Remember when Paul called out Peter in front of everyone? When the apostles— a very small group of very like-minded men who alone mediate the very words of Christ — don’t always get along, it could easily discourage the rest of us, right? Paul said, “I opposed him to his face” (Galatians 2:11). So what was he so worked up about? Peter had stopped eating with Gentile believers to preserve his image among the Jews, and many had followed his example (2:12–13).
But is that really that big of a deal? It may seem like Paul blew an empty seat in a lunchroom way out of proportion, but he didn’t. Paul saw that Peter’s decision denied the world-changing, death-defeating, unifying work of Christ. Through the gospel, God was doing something uniquely beautiful and glorious by not only reconciling people to himself, but also bringing them together in love across every imaginable barrier and boundary.
One of the challenges everyone is navigating is the flood of information that hits us every day. From your social media feeds to breaking news flashes to the minute by minute invasion of notifications, buzzes, rings and haptics that disrupt our day, we’re processing more information than any humans who have ever lived.
This is not good.
If you flip back a few generations, you’ll notice that your great-great-grandparents really only processed the information they needed to know and could act on. You only knew so many people, and when someone died, you knew them and could help by bringing the family food, attending the funeral and being part of the community that could support them.
Now, you get told several times a day about mass shootings, plane crashes, typhoons and wars that kill thousands…but you don’t know anyone involved and are mostly powerless to help except to give a few pounds to relief efforts or the latest GoFundMe campaign.
The same is the case with news, emails, status updates. You are bombarded every day with information you can barely process, let alone do anything about.
You know what that’s doing to you? It’s making you cynical.
The media runs bad news, and when your friends post about their latest trip, awesome parties, or fantastic dinner, it generates bad feelings (jealousy and resentment and loneliness are profound issues associated with social media).
Cynicism roots itself in knowledge. The more you know, the more cynical you become. The reason you were so happy when you were younger is you and I were kind of stupid. Ignorance is bliss.
But now, every single day, you see how poorly we treat each other as humans. You see that you weren’t invited to the party, didn’t get to hang with your friends, aren’t moving into that gorgeous dream house your college roommate is and that 200 people died in a plane crash…and it leaves you sad. Your character actually needs a lot of refinement, and you need to deepen your spiritual maturity to use social media and navigate the news these days. Or at least I do.
But at least this explains why you feel the way you feel so many days.
Why Did God Make Us So Different?
We might be lulled into forgetting all of our differences are due to the God himself, who knit us together, every cell and disposition, before we were even born (Psalm 139). He’s never surprised that we’re different. In fact, he knows every difference completely and intimately because he designed them.
Think for a minute about the thousands of years now of bloody, almost unrelenting, hostile conflict between Jews and Gentiles. God did that. God made Israel “distinct from every other people on the face of the earth” (Exodus 33:16). He set them violently against every neighbouring nation (Deuteronomy 7:2). It was the worldwide rehearsal of Joseph and his fancy coat, when his father made him the enemy of all his brothers by setting him apart with his special love (Genesis 37).
Why would he design Jews and Gentiles for so much division and destruction? For this reason: “[Christ] himself is our peace, who made us both one and has broken down the wall of hostility . . . and reconciled us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility” (Ephesians 2:14, 16). The God-designed differences — even hostilities — between these two peoples was meant to show the invincible power of the gospel message to produce love.
God’s full acceptance of us in Jesus binds up the brokenness in our relationships. That’s a significant, intentional part of the most important plan in history, God’s plan to save his children from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation. Christ came to repair what our rebellion had wrecked in our relationship with him, but he also came to reunite us in love with people different than us in every imaginable way.
The gospel turns haters into brothers, enemies into sisters. One of the most powerful and winsome things that Jesus purchased with his death was unlikely love. So we have to learn to see our differences differently, to see the contrasts and even inconveniences as unique canvases for Christ and his redeeming love for us.
Dear friends, we must love each other because love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born from God and knows God. The person who doesn’t love doesn’t know God because God is love. God has shown us his love by sending his only Son into the world so that we could have life through him. This is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the payment for our sins. Dear friends, if this is the way God loved us, we must also love each other. No one has ever seen God. If we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us. We know that we live in him, and he lives in us because he has given us his Spirit. We have seen and testify to the fact that the Father sent his Son as the Saviour of the world. (1 John 4:7-14)
Love Like Jesus: How Jesus Loved People -Kurt Bennett
Wounded - Anne Graham Lotz
Experiencing God’s Love through His Creation – Rebecca Brown
Our Loving God – Carine Mackenzie
Love Like Jesus – Judah Smith
How to Love Difficult People – William. P. Smith