I used to see only black and white.
I was that person that got mad at you if you didn’t treat me right going through the till. I was the one that let you know swiftly if my coffee wasn’t hot enough. I was that person who honked at the cars that cut me off - not to let them know that I was there but to let them know that I was super angry at them. In my mind, you were either right or wrong. Lifestyles were either right or wrong. It was black and white and I left no room for colour or for gray.
I am not the opposite of who I was - I will still send my coffee back if it’s too cold. I will still ask the teller if I am inconveniencing her if she acts like I have interrupted her day. I am rarely embarrassed or hesitant to state my true feelings. But these days, I am more often asking strangers if they want prayer; if they know that Jesus loves them or if they need anything. Now, I find myself looking beyond their outward actions and looking deep within their heart, knowing that there is a person who goes through pain just like me. There before me stands a person fighting for freedom in his/her life; struggling to stay above the water. I am realizing more and more that people often carry heavy loads on their shoulders that they can’t possibly lay down at the door of their work. Instead of a rebuke, they need an outstretched hand, they need a loving and kind word from a stranger. A snide remark will stick arrows in their back for a week, while a beautiful gesture of love might possibly change their life.
How interesting that Jesus actually came to earth to fulfill the law so that he could replace it with one word - love. That’s not to say that he wanted us to run around killing each other in the name of freedom. He didn't take away boundaries or conscience. But he taught us that we need to follow a path that is so much greater and at the same time, much much harder. People that live in black and white think that love is a grand cop-out. Sure, just love people. But when you think about it, when you live by the principle of love, it’s much harder than following a set of rules and the results so much better.
Jesus left us with two commands. Love God and love one another. When we live by the higher law we are freer. We have added color to our lives. Life is not a simple answer. Sometimes there aren’t any easy solutions. In my years of ministry and counseling, I have learned that often there aren’t hard and fast rules for a lot of things in this life. Often, it’s hard to untangle the truth from the lie - the right from the wrong. There are so many variables. So instead of living in judgement, suddenly you realize that the better way is love. The noble gesture is a soft hand on a tired shoulder.
All of us need to be loved. All of us, no matter what age, race or religion need to feel important - we need to know that we matter deeply to the world around us.
I love the story in the Bible of the woman caught in adultery. The Pharisees brought the terrified woman before Jesus and told Him of her sin. Clutching stones in their hands, they were waiting for the signal from Jesus to stone her. It was simple to them. This woman was a sinner - she was caught. Stone her. What Jesus did next is a mystery to this day. As the crowd waited for his approval, silently He bent down in the dirt and began writing words on the ground. Then He looked up and simply said, “Okay, the person without any sin in their lives - YOU cast the first stone.” No one could be that person because they all knew that they had sinned in their lifetime. He then turned to the panic stricken lady who was looking on with awe in her eyes. This is what he said, “Go and sin no more.” How could he say that so casually? How could it be that easy for her to just go "and sin no more." Maybe she was in love with the man with whom she was committing adultery with. Maybe it was an addiction to her. There are so many things that we don't know about this story. This is how He was able to say it with such confidence; such conviction. Because instead of stones, she had experienced love. Instead of hate, she was bathed in kindness. Her very life was saved. And because her very life was saved with love, her soul was saved. She experienced the love of God and she was a different person.
Our love will change people.
When you go to the grocery store, look for people that need your love. Keep your eyes and heart open for those that need to hear a kind word or receive a smile.
Jesus didn’t tell us to love people that believed the same as us. He didn’t tell us to love in spite of... He didn’t tell us to love even though...
He simply told us to love people. Simply love people no matter the race, no matter the religion, no matter the beliefs, and no matter the actions.
Let's take a look at three ways to love well.
1. Don't keep score. Don't love only those people who can love you back. Don't just love people to show them you are great - you are lovely. Love them because they need to be loved, they want to be loved. Even if they can't love you back. Even if you love them in ways that are anonymous. Love them. Love someone for no reason. Love someone who you will never ever see again. Do it even if it doesn't make your name more popular; it doesn't bring anyone else into the church; it doesn't advertise ANYTHING at all - you are just showing genuine love to show love.
2. Love the way you want to be loved. What is your love language? On any given day, what would YOU want? What would make your day? Would it bless you if someone gave you a gift - just because...? Then choose someone to give a gift to. Would you love it if someone just came up to you and gave you a compliment; told you how much they appreciate you? Then do the same for someone. Would it make your day if someone left a card for Starbucks under your windshield? Then find someone who would love the same and do it for them. Do you know what that does? It heals you. It refreshes you. It uplifts you. Because love doesn't only help the one who receives it, it helps the one who gives it as well.
3. Give lavishly, wildly and generously out of your love bank today. I had a pastor once who said it was always good to error on the side of grace. I adopted that saying because I LOVE it. But I want to take that a step further and say that you can never error on the side of love. One of the things on my bucket list is to stand behind someone in the grocery store and step up and say, "I want to buy her groceries." I can't wait until one day I can do that.
I want to love with abandonment. I want to see my waitresses through eyes of love. I want to see my co-workers, my neighbors and those I meet, through eyes of love. I want to be motivated in my everyday life through eyes of love. Because I know that one day 2000 years ago, there was a Man who died for me. His motivation was sincere, genuine, lovely and wild love.
Tomorrow, when you wake up in the morning, choose to think this very question. "Who can I love today?" When you begin to wake up every morning with this thought, it will change your life.
I promise you.