“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35, NIV)
I had a conversation the other day with a local store clerk who just loves Soren’s cheeks. When she asked where Noah was that night and I told her that he was playing at a worship night she was taken completely aback. When she asked if we were Christians I said yes, explaining Noah was a pastor. She then remarked, “Wow. But you two are always so funny and loving and normal seeming. I mean, I’ve never felt judged by you or anything.”
My heart broke into a million pieces on the floor. Here was a perfectly great lady who we had regular interaction with that was surprised we were Christians because we were kind.
Lately there has been a lot of conversations happening about enemies, mainly on a national scale. When discussing Syria on a news program I heard a pundit talking about the fact Jesus told us to love our enemies and how loving is it to drop a bomb on them? That’s a good point. I personally don’t feel the love when being bombed. But what about those we wouldn’t consider close friends, who Jesus says in Matthew 5 are easy to love, and those who we certainly wouldn’t consider enemies? How do we treat them?
Think about it. You come into contact everyday with people in the service industry, bank tellers, baristas gas station attendants and store clerks. I doubt your regularly find a nemesis among them but do you love them like friends, or even like enemies or do you find yourself indifferent to your attitude towards them because frankly they don’t matter at the end of the day? Too often we pass by our interactions with those around us who aren’t related directly to our work, our family or our play because “they don’t matter.” They are in between the status of friend and enemy, which is a lonely place to be left.
We shout at customer service representatives because our bank balance is off as if it were their fault. We demand the attention of middle management when our latte was made incorrectly. We curse the police officer writing the ticket because we couldn’t look up from our phones long enough to pay attention. We judge and belittle the educational status, general intelligence and even the right to be here of those who serve our food, clean our floors and mow our lawns. They are not our enemies, but if you’re loving your enemies in order to try be righteous these people in the in-between might as well be the greatest villains you’ve ever met.
On the night when Jesus was betrayed he met and shared a meal with his disciples and explained that he needed them to love one another just as he had loved them. He gave them a new commandment (John 13:34-35) to love one another because that was what would tie them to him forever. That was their identifier, before the word “Christian” existed, love was as good as a moniker. They would have the same love, much like having the same title, or the same name. Now, as followers of Christ we have the same name, so where do you take my name? Where do you take Martin Luther King Jr.’s name? How well do you represent C.S. Lewis’ name? Are you taking this good name through the mud?
I know we all cringe at people who do terrible things under the guise of calling themselves Christians. People like the Westboro Baptist protestors, hate crimes against people different from them, a war in the Middle East that stretches back centuries. But that name follows you into Starbucks and the dry cleaners and to the circles you gossip in and the jokes that you tell.
Please be careful where you take that name, because it is my father’s name, it is my name, it is my son’s name and it is a good name.
Ali can be reached via email here.