The Greatest of These Is Love

It's way past my bedtime. I should be asleep, not stewing over these words in my head. It's been a rough couple of weeks. Work is hard. Life is hard. The news headlines are hard. There are a lot of voices out there saying a lot of unkind, hateful, or thoughtless words about complex and nuanced issues. Maybe I'm just adding my voice to cacophony. Or maybe someone will hear and something will change. Maybe I will listen and learn and change.

I believe in a loving God. A big God. A righteous, faithful, good God. Sometimes, these truths are hard to hold on to. I'm struggling to believe them right this second. My head knows it and those I trust continue to speak it into my life, but the whispers are loud in my heart saying He isn't good, He won't provide, I'm too broken for His love or anyone else's, I am alone and worthless and cannot expect anything more from life than what I have right this second. These are lies, if only I can remember that.

This is not a post about depression. This is not a post about mental illness or mental health. I do not have any authority or much experience from which to speak about those subjects. This post is about love. It's about how we speak to and about one another. It's about how we speak to and about one another in the broader context of the major issues of our times.

Once upon a time, it was my job to know, study, and have an opinion about every current event and political issue raging in our world today. I have four years and 245 credits of education that claim I know a little bit about that arena. In all honesty, I know very little. I have a combined 20 months of work experience in a very small sector of a portion of the industry known as politics. The thing that drove me away from that line of work was watching as the political and media machine tore us all limb from limb and turned us into people who looked nothing like Christ, though many of us claimed to serve Him. I watched people who deeply believed that their words didn't matter, that how and when they said them didn't matter. Or, worse, that their right to say them mattered more than the person to whom they were speaking.

Here is the one thing I know: no matter what the issue is, not matter how strongly you believe you are right, and no matter how much of the law or the Constitution or even scripture is on your side, you are WRONG when you cease to see your opponent or adversary or "enemy" as anything less than a human being created in the image of a holy and eternal God.
So God created man in his own image,
    in the image of God he created him;
    male and female he created them. - Genesis 1:27 ESV 
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. - 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 ESV
Pick an issue, any issue. That issue has AT LEAST two sides. Those sides are made up of people. People with hopes and dreams and families and hearts and who are made and loved by the Creator of the Universe. No matter the circumstances of their birth, the color of their skin, the choices they have made in life, or the things they believe, they are loved by God and are extended the same redemption through Christ that I do not merit but am so blessed to have received.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. - Ephesians 2:8-10 ESV
If we just stopped for just one second and considered compassion, considered grace, considered love, how would that change the conversation? The definition of love is important here, for sure. Love is not always (and is perhaps rarely) about warm, happy feelings. Love is a choice. Love is telling the truth no matter how hard it is to hear in order to bring about healing, restoration, and growth in someone's life. Love is making the choice to come back time after time and forgive and reconcile and work things out. Love is seeing a person as they truly are and committing to walk with them on the hard journey to who you know they can become. Love is being vulnerable and open enough to allow someone else to do these things for you.

But most of all, love is about seeing a person as God sees them.
For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart. - 1 Samuel 16:7b ESV
In the midst of this, I feel compelled to take a tangent just to say that you, YES YOU, were created in the image and likeness of God. You are loved by Him. It doesn't matter if you know Him or serve Him or reject Him. He created you. Specifically and uniquely created you to be unlike anyone He ever created before or ever will again. You are here for a reason. Please don't ever let the lies talk you out of that. Please.

With all of this in mind, can we, for the literal love of God, speak to one another with kindness and compassion and mercy and love? Can we take a breath before speaking and think about the impact of our words? Can we imagine our audience as a real person, whole and full of thoughts and ideas and insights and inspirations, who is more than their beliefs or ideas about the particular issue we happen to be discussing in that moment? Can we pretend we are speaking to Christ himself?
The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ - Matthew 25:40 NIV
And lest you imagine me over here preaching with my finger waving interrogatively (which I sincerely hope you see is the exact opposite of my heart in this moment), please know I am mostly speaking to my own broken and rebellious heart, which sees enemies in every corner and believes my ideas are right by the simple virtue of me being the one who had them. I just keep thinking there has to be a better way. A way to live without all this bitterness and anger. So this is my prayer for me, for all of us:
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. - Colossians 3:12-14 NIV