Sunday, October 7, 2012

Love Without End, Amen

Driving to Rome the other day, I saw this on a church sign

My first inclination was to shame those people for being religiously intolerant.  In the South, there is a sort of nationalist pride for this great country, our military, and our freedom.  Yet some seem to want the freedom of religion to allow prayer in schools, as long as it is to our God, and NOT Allah.  This pseudo-religious freedom is befuddling to me.  How can you condemn another religion and still be surprised when someone calls you a hypocrite?

Despite my first reaction, I allowed a different thought, instead, to manifest itself.  We are called to love one another above all else and that command should be extended to those of other religions AND those that are intolerant.  If we condemn another for not accepting everyone, are we not disregarding our very own preaching that says to love everyone in spite of their different beliefs? 

Sometimes we find it hard to love people whose history is so foreign to our own, but recently I have found the difficulty in loving those who claim to love and serve the same God as me.  It pains me to see the Christian Church (universal) represented as an intolerant people who cannot see the glory of God in ALL His children.  But the solution to this problem is not hating those who hate, but loving them in spite of their intolerance.  In Romans, we are instructed to not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Rom 12:21).  

This morning, our Sunday school class talked about pride and how it interrupts our servanthood.  John Ortberg writes, "pride is a form of antilove...Pride moves us to exclude instead of to embrace...Pride moves us to judge rather than to serve."  Many times our service to God and loving Him and his people gets interrupted by our pride and judgment.  We are called to embrace, to love, and to serve.

Jesus told this parable in Luke 18:9-14:
Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.

Next time you get the inclination that your place in heaven is higher than another's, remember this parable.  Don't allow your judgment to impede your service or your pride to hinder your love.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.   -1 Cor 13:13


  1. Jerrica, you have been able to put to words something that has been on my heart and which I still try daily to overcome. Thank you for this post!

  2. This is a hard tension to navigate. Our (especially coming from such a formative community as Wesley) political, moral, and ethical beliefs often are a source of self-righteousness and a temptation to pride that we must resist. At the same time, there is absolutely a need to call attention to the damage, hurt, and lack of compassion that some messages (like the one on that sign) broadcast. So how do you do that? How do you love someone in a way at that says "this is wrong, this doesn't build up the kingdom of God, but I still love you?" I certainly don't know the answer, but I'd start with patience and a spirit of humility, plus the grace of God and constant reflection on lessons like that parable from Luke.

  3. Jerrica, thanks for this. There have been a lot of times recently where I've felt exceedingly self-righteous about "not being THOSE people." Among other things, it's especially prevalent when I do think about religious intolerance. Thank you for this reminder. Grace and peace to you, friend!