Series on Love, Part 7
This point is pretty straightforward. Jesus did not avoid spiritually or physically unlovely people. He didn’t avoid the rude, crude or crippled. Jesus’ mission was to save people who did not love him. People who were fallen in sin. Who moaned under the yoke and tyranny of corruption.
Jesus loved people who were outsiders, that society rejected and ignored. He stooped and in stooping lifted people up with Grace, service and love. Think of the woman at the well in John chapter 4. She was coming to the well alone. Most women came out to get water together, which was the custom, to help each other. This woman comes by herself, she’s an outcast. Does Jesus avoid her? Does he berate her for being an outcast? Does he begin the conversation by confronting her sin? No, He addresses her need. He doesn’t focus right in on her sin, he sees His sister in want. He sees past her unattractiveness and immorality to see the image of God in her that’s marred and under bondage and ministers to her there.
Other examples abound. Children, women of ill repute, paralytics, people on the fringe; cast out, forgotten, overlooked. Jesus overcomes their brokenness, ugliness and loves them. Frees them. Lifts them up with Grace. You were fallen. You were ugly. You had nothing to offer God. There was and is no way to reciprocate the love he’s given you and yet He loved you anyway. This is love. Not loving people who can repay you. Not loving people who are easy to love. Christ-like love is seen most purely when it’s extended toward people who cannot reciprocate in any way is most like Jesus’ love.
The arrogant, the self-righteous, the boastful, broken, un-bathed. The sick, the old, senile invalids, drug addicts, the drunks, the liars. Unlovely people often lack propriety, kindness, patience, you know, the fruits of the spirit. They are rude, self-important, crass and proud. Or they’re locked in sin and need freedom. That’s usually a pretty ugly situation that’s hard to be around. Jesus didn’t accept the corruption but saw past it to the marred image beneath that needed love, respect and dignity. He overcame the sin to get the sinner. He overcame the un-lovliness to love.
Jesus doesn’t avoid the unlovely He seeks them out. Treating people with love is not about accepting people’s sin it’s about overcoming the sin of people who need our love. Would you moms avoid the trashy looking lady at the park who is yelling at her kid? Would you feel it’s your responsibility to instruct her in proper parenting or would you ignore her completely? Could you overcome your prejudices and her ugliness to love her. To extend to her friendship and kindness?
Furthermore, a common reaction to people trapped in sin is to stay away from them until they get free of it. But if no light ever comes into a dark situation how is the dark going to recede? I didn’t see the ugliness of my own sin until light came into my dark corner bearing the love of the Father. And the one who bore that love prayed for me. She respected the least respectable person who ever lived. She gave dignity where there was none. She saw past the marred fallen-ness to the image of God beneath and loved that image.
Think of your own story. It was compassion that taught you compassion. It was hope that others expressed for you that gave you hope. Remember the person or persons who came like the sun into a dark cave and overcame your ugliness with love.
Now look at the ugliness around you. The angry atheist, the crass redneck, the arrogant businessman, the prideful outdoorsman, the graceless green tree-hugger, the drug addict, the homeless guy who probably could work and see past all the sin and un-lovliness to the image of God beneath. Look at the ugliness and how little there is to love. Go and find the image of God beneath and love it.
To love people with few or no good qualities is putting yourself into a very vulnerable state. It can be very difficult and dangerous to love an angry drunk, drug addict, the self-righteous, the dark and moody. It’s sapping. It requires dying. It’s opening yourself up to be sinned against and hurt. And that often holds us back. Uncertainty, distrust, fear.
C.S. Lewis wrote in the The Four Loves “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”
This is what happens to a lot of Christians. The seed of God’s word goes down and sprouts up but the cares and worries of the world choke it. Fears smother the love inside of them and they bear no fruit. We must turn outward in faith and hope. Believe in the sustaining power of God’s love for you and let it extend through you to the unlovely. Be vulnerable and open.
Loving is risky business, but it’s the serious business of the kingdom. Jesus kneeled in the garden afraid. He knew what it would cost Him to love the unlovely. But He bowed His head and looked for protection and provision from God, the Father. Jesus overcame His personal fears to love like His Father loved Him. We too must overcome un-lovliness and its risks. We have to overcome our fears to love like we have been loved.