“I love everybody. You’re next.” I borrow these words from Rob Bell, founding pastor of the Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville, Michigan. Mars Hill is not your traditional church. At Mars Hill, their slogan is “Love wins!”
As Christians we are commanded to love everyone. Jesus specifically tells his disciples that if they only love those by whom they are loved, they are no different than anyone else. He then commands them, and us, to love our enemies.
For a couple of centuries we have been trying to write that off as though Jesus didn’t really mean what he said. Or, perhaps, we have just learned to categorically excuse ourselves from anything Jesus said that seems too hard for us to accomplish.
Yet Jesus intended to create a community of people who followed him and obeyed him. His plan was that the world would recognize his followers by their love.
Have you been loved? Have you had the experience of being cared for not because of anything you have done, but simply because it was the desire of another person to care for you? Have you felt the peace that comes from accepting gifts, either material or emotional, that are freely given, not in return for anything you have done?
Have you loved? Have you offered care, attention, hope, or support to someone else not because he or she has ever done anything for you, but just because it is in you to do so? Have you felt the indescribable joy that comes from seeing the face of another glow at receiving something freely and not in return for anything they had done?
Jesus said that the difference in his disciples would be their love, not their ability to condemn people, their eagerness to spew moral judgments, or the ease with which they identified themselves as God’s “special people.”
They’ll know us by our love. Who’s next for you?