Yesterday, Travis Blanks, a former Clemson football player who played for the national championship against Alabama, spoke at my church and blew me away. He touched on a lot of timely topics and super-important issues we face in this country, but one line he spoke keeps bouncing around in my skull:
"Love will never be the incorrect response."
I scribbled it in my journal and buried it in my heart, because the truth of those words is to be at the core of every believer's response and behavior, regardless of the circumstance.
Maybe because it's easier to hate than to love. Maybe because our first response is to criticize and condemn, and it takes so much more effort and intention to show mercy and grace with no strings attached. Maybe because it's easier to see the plank in others' eyes instead of the speck in our own.
But here's the thing for those of us who call ourselves believers. If we choose this life, then as Travis said, "There's a price we have to pay when we walk with Jesus. When you profess Jesus, you no longer have the right to choose who you love."
Jesus commanded us to love our neighbors as ourselves, and he explained that everyone is our neighbor. Regardless of race. Class. Gender. Financial status. Living arrangements. Background. Addictions. Struggles.
We each are created in the image of God, and each of us is deserving of and in desperate need of the love of other image-bearers.
Listen, I struggle with this. It's never easy to look at someone whose faults are on display and choose love over judgment. It's not easy to look at someone you know is in rebellion against God and choose love over condemnation. It's not easy to look at someone you have been taught is in a different class than you are and choose love over rejection.
It's never easy, but it's required. It is a command, and it is black and white. 1 John 4:8 says, "Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love." Whenever I choose a response other than love, I am acknowledging that I don't know God as I think (and say) I do. If I know God, I can only choose love. If I am God's, I love. Period.
Love doesn't mean you approve of wrong behavior. Love doesn't mean you withhold truth. Love doesn't mean you ignore addictions and accept sin. It means that in the midst of all those things, you believe in the inherent value of the person and choose to draw them closer to God through your own love. Your love is to be a mirror of the Father's love until that person knows His love personally.
I'm challenged by this. I'm convicted by this. And today I'm choosing to be changed by this.
Love. No matter what.