We Have Not Loved Well

We are to love well. Jesus said love would be the mark of His followers—love for each other and even love for their enemies.

But we have not loved well.

For 2,000 years, believers have bickered and fought with each other. Splitting hairs and splitting churches over minor disagreements and going to war over major ones.

And we’ve behaved even worse with those outside the faith. We’ve judged unbelievers when they behave like unbelievers. We criticize those who are different from us. Different social backgrounds from ours. Different ethnic heritages. And especially, different sins.

We’ve concluded that if someone’s sins are different from ours, their sin is worse. We create hierarchies of sin, with ours on the bottom rung of severity and theirs at the top.

Instead of taking a stand against injustice, we’ve sat on the sidelines, allowing the world to fight for the rights of the downtrodden.

And then along came a godly man who spoke truth and stood for righteousness. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who called people to non-violent protests of unrighteous laws. Who called believers out in one of the saddest commentaries on the body of Christ.

In 1963, Dr. King said, “At 11:00 on Sunday morning…we stand at the most segregated hour in this nation.” While we may have made strides in this area, more than 50 years later many Christians still worship God with people who look and act like themselves—racially, socially, economically, and politically.

This year, our nation celebrates the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. on January 21. In honor of MLK day, let’s consider some of his oft-repeated quotes. Quotes that spur Christians to live out their faith and testimony both inside and outside the body of Christ.

Quotes such as:

  • “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
  • “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
  • “The time is always right to do what is right.”
  • “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
  • “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”
  • “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

Whether or not the body of Christ has loved well in the past, there’s always room for improvement. God’s Word has quite a bit to say on this subject, including these verses:

  • “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44 ESV).
  • “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35 ESV).
  • “With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:2-3 ESV).
  • “And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Colossians 3:14).
  • “If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen” (I John 4:20 ESV).

Someday in eternity, we will all stand before the throne of God, praising Him for who He is and thanking Him for who we are: redeemed people from every tribe, language, and nation. Until that day, we still have many friends to make…and to love well.

Whose Lives Matter?

I am heartbroken…and I stand convicted.

I’m heartbroken because, based on past experience with those who have abused their authority, black parents fear that their children are walking targets.

I am equally heartbroken because, based on past experience, law enforcement officers know the uniforms they wear identify them as walking targets in the same communities they are sworn to protect.

heartbleed-378010_960_720The color of their skin may be different, but the color of their blood is the same.

It flows red from their veins.

It puddles scarlet onto pavement.

It stains not only clothes, but the conscience of our nation.

Explanations of the problem differ depending on whom you ask…

The history of our country has been a history of mistreating black men.

Millions of law enforcement officers do their job well every day, caring for the whole community, regardless of race, color, or creed.

Not all blacks are thugs.

Not all whites are racist.

White-on white homicides outpace black-on-black homicides.

Black-on-black homicides outpace white-on-black homicides.

Black men shouldn’t have to fear death during a traffic stop.

Police officers shouldn’t have to fear death during a traffic stop.

Do you see the problem? It’s a game of tit-for-tat.

For every fact one side offers, the other side provides an equally accurate fact. We end up talking at each other instead of to each other. A game of one-upmanship in which we wield truth as a club, even as we turn a deaf ear to other truths that are equally valid.

The vicious cycle escalates until it takes a life for a life for a life for a life. Until no one is left standing and we’re all lying in a pool of intermingled blood—with the red liquid the one thing we have in common aside from death itself.

The first time I heard the phrase, “Black Lives Matter,” my initial response was, “All Lives Matter.” “Blue (police) lives matter.” “Native-American lives matter.” “Asian lives matter.” Why should black lives matter more than anyone else?

It’s true the Black Lives Matter movement has at times been hijacked by those with their own agenda. However, for many law-abiding black Americans, the original intent was never to say their lives matter more than anyone else. The intent was to communicate that black lives matter as much as anyone else. How sad that any group of people would feel the need to say so.

All lives do matter. But if stereotypes allow even the perception that the lives of any group – ethnic or vocational – are diminished in importance, the phrase “All Lives Matter” becomes a lie. Black lives and blue lives must matter equally, no less than all other lives, whether Asian, Native-American, or fill-in-the-blank.

I confess, I’ve felt intimidated and fearful walking alone in a predominantly black community when I see a group of young black men heading toward me.

But young black men are equally afraid if they are walking in a predominantly white community and see an officer heading toward them.

And law enforcement officers are also afraid, knowing that if their firearm is not always at the ready, a split second’s hesitation could leave their wives widows and their children fatherless.

The common denominator is fear. Fear in its darkest, most raw essence. Its insidious presence writhes and grows. It chokes life and suffocates peace. In their place, fear breeds suspicion and hatred. It divides and it kills.

The only antidote I know for fear is love. Perfect love (I John 4:18).

The kind of love Jesus offered on the cross for all lives.

The kind of love His followers profess to have.

The kind of love that needs to be manifested with actions as well as words.

The kind of love black Christians and white Christians and Christians of every other ethnic background need to exhibit to push back the darkness that seeks to cleave and conquer.

As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

May God give His people – of every ethnic background – the courage to live out His love.

May God give me the courage to live out His love.

Will you join me in this prayer?