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It is easy to love other people when they are like us. It is easy to love people who agree with us politically, who have the same values as we do, and who have the same interests. Basically, it is easy to love people who we like.

But Jesus doesn’t call us to merely love people who we like. He calls us to love people who are hard to love. Time and again, the teachings of Jesus challenge us to love the un-loveable.

For example, in the parable of The Prodigal Son, the son is not a likeable character. He is disrespectful to his father, and then he squanders his entire inheritance. Nevertheless, when the son returns home to his father, his father embraces him with open arms. That story never ceases to pull at my heartstrings when I read it. It is the most beautiful metaphor for God’s love for us.

Could we feel the same way toward our children as God does toward us? Could we love a child who rejected us? How often do parents struggle to love their children when their children merely have opposing viewpoints? But yet, God calls us to love our children, even when we don’t understand how they think or what they do.

In the Bible, God calls us to love others even if we don’t share their nationality or religious beliefs. When Jesus revealed himself for the first time as the Messiah, interestingly, he didn’t reveal himself to someone who was Jewish, like him. He, instead, revealed himself to a Samaritan woman. The Samaritans were enemies of the Jews.  However, Jesus wasn’t concerned with this woman’s nationality or her religion when he chose to have this incredibly important interaction.

Jesus calls us to love people who we don’t understand. He calls us to love people who are different from us, and who we may very well find to be unattractive. And that is where most of us falter. We want to be good Christians, but we really don’t want to love everybody.

So, we come up with excuses. For instance, homophobic people are unwilling to love gay people. Why? I suspect because they don’t understand them. They are heterosexual (or have repressed their homosexuality), and they can’t imagine having a sexual relationship with someone of their own gender. So, they come up with all kinds of cockamamie reasons for why they can’t love gay people. They pick nutty passages out of the Bible to support their homophobic views.* Or, they say silly things, like “It just isn’t natural,” instead of just following Jesus’ simple command to “Love Thy Neighbor.”

Or, sometimes people will vilify those that they don’t understand. They will say that they can’t treat people from other countries in a loving manner because they are all “criminals” or “rapists.” If people don’t speak English, and they didn’t grow up in our country, then some people can’t muster up the enthusiasm to love them. Instead, they insult them and treat them without compassion, which couldn’t be farther from how Jesus wants us to treat other people.

Even if we don’t understand other people, we are called to love them. There is no gray area in that mandate. And loving people doesn’t mean that we simply don’t hurt them. It means that we don’t judge them. Know that we are not here to judge others. It isn’t our job. It is God’s job, and we need to stay out of that. We are here to love other people. Period.

And when we love other people, we don’t look down on them. We don’t pretend that we are better than they are, because we just aren’t. In God’s eyes, we are all equal. He loves every single one of us, and he so desperately wants for each of us to be happy. And the only way that every person can be happy on this earth is if we stop worrying about whether we agree with each other, and start worrying about whether we are caring for on another.

To fulfill God’s kingdom on this earth, every single person must be happy, cared for and loved. So, if you really want to be part of establishing God’s kingdom on earth (which is the job of every Christian), then that little girl who has no food in Yemen is your problem. And that gay young man in your town who doesn’t feel accepted is your problem. And that impoverished Guatemalan family who wants to get into the United States to be part of the American Dream is your problem too. Why? Because the political borders that we human beings have made up have nothing to do with God. God did not create borders. Border are our own concoction. God created the earth, and he made us responsible for it and for its inhabitants. It is just that simple.

This week, consider whether you have any latent prejudices which may be holding you back from loving others. You don’t have to understand other people. You don’t even have to always like them. You do, however, have to love them if you want to truly be God’s ambassador on this earth.

(Photo Courtesy of Pexels)

*Note: There are all kinds of nutty passages in the Bible, including one that prohibits eating shellfish, and another that prohibits wearing clothing made of different types of fibers. If you actually try to follow the Bible to the letter, you won’t be able to.  It was written in another culture and time period which was so very different from ours. So, quoting the Bible to support homophobia, misogyny or any other kind of hatred is not persuasive.

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