What Is Loving Others Supposed to Look Like?

“If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that?” (Matthew 5:46a NLT)

Whether we realize it or not, a lot of our values, in terms of what we believe, including how we treat others who are different from ourselves, is “caught” more than taught. What does that mean? It means that we tend to follow what is modeled before us, growing up. If our parents liked a certain kind of car, food, political party, church/religion, whatever, we tend to follow their example, at least initially, rather than think it through and make up our own minds.

That often includes how we view people who are different from us. Growing up I didn’t think about prejudice that much because everyone around me was white. I went to school with a few black kids, but they would stay together, and I stayed with my white friends. I didn’t have a friend that wasn’t white until college, but this was in the 60’s and there was a lot of friction between the races.

Having come to Christ in high school, I was trying to learn what loving others looked like, but for the most part, everyone I loved looked like me. Then one summer I learned a college singing group was coming to our church, and, with my mom’s permission, I volunteered to invite one of the singers to stay with us. Little did we know the young man who would be staying with us was black. Oh, my 😊!

Not knowing how my mom would react, I thought it best to let her know before bringing the young man to our house but was pleasantly surprised when she was agreeable to him staying with us. We became fast friends and I learned to love him as a brother, which, of course, he was. That experience helped a lot to move me in the direction of opening my mind and heart to others who were different than me.

Fast forward a lot of years. Now I had lots of friends who were different, but there was still one group with whom I struggled. Gays! We called gays by lots of other names when I was growing up and though my heart could expand to embrace a lot of different kinds of people, much to God’s displeasure, it didn’t include “them!”

A few years ago, my son and his fiancée asked me if I’d officiate their wedding, which I was delighted to do. At that time, we lived in different states, so whatever details we had to work out were either over the phone or via text or email. A few days before the wedding I learned that his fiancée’s “Maid of Honor,” wasn’t a “Maid,” but a man. A man who was married to another man! Whoa! I didn’t see that one coming! What should I do?

My first instinct was to tell them I couldn’t marry them, but having learned to not make decisions of that magnitude without first praying, I asked the Lord: “Lord, what should I do?” None of my preconceived ideas of how He would respond came close to what He told me. He said, “I want you to do the wedding, and this is what I want you to do about the “Man” of Honor – love him and enjoy him!”

It was liberating! Brian and his partner were an absolute delight. Two of the finest human beings I’ve ever met. Brian made a toast to the bride and groom that was touching and humorous, and I could see immediately why Steph loved him so much. We’ve since had other opportunities to spend time together and my love for them has continued to grow. Neither of them professes faith in Christ (yet), largely, I believe, because of the way they’ve been treated by “Christian” people like me before my conversation with the Lord. How can we expect anyone to desire our Savior when we’re not treating them like Jesus would? Who are the “THEM’S” in your life? Who is it that you struggle to love?

The Lord made it clear that my responsibility, regardless of the lifestyles of the people I meet, is to love them as though I were Jesus, allowing Him to love them through me, and leave their lifestyles to Him.

When you think about it, isn’t that exactly the way we want to be treated when we are learning about Jesus or coming to church for the first time? Do we want people getting in our face about what “brand” of sin we prefer? Last time I checked, the Bible affirms we’re all sinners. When I decide that I have a right to criticize or reject a person because I don’t like their lifestyle, I’d better speak with the Master Surgeon, Jesus, and ask Him to remove the log from my eye, so I can help get the speck out of another person’s eye. “Father, help me (us)!”

Blessings, Ed 😊

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