If you have spent any time reading the news or on social media lately you have probably noticed the increased discussion on gay marriage, intolerance, Christian hypocrisy, and so forth. Some of you just stopped reading because, like me, you are sick of hearing about it. The sermons on judgment, grace, love, etc. have all picked up as well and I have heard some passionate messages on these topics within the last few weeks. I put a strong emphasis on “passion” because often times we think a passionate delivery makes a good message; however, in reality, if we were to take the passion part out of the message we would notice that the speaker really didn’t say anything at all.
I have heard messages lately from all sides: the anti-Christian tirades that call us intolerant and hypocrites; messages on grace, love forgiveness, judgment, condemnation; and sermons calling us back to the Lord and urging us to take a stand. However, my favorite message so far has been one where I was told not to judge because we all sin and in the same breath was told that as a Christian I must take a stand for what is right. Say what? How am I suppose to take a stand for what is right without judging what is wrong? The speaker spoke with a lot of passion and there was a lot “Amens” and “Thank you Lords”, and no one seemed to notice he talked himself in a circle. To be honest, I did that myself with these issues until today. I kept going around and around trying to figure out how to speak the truth of God’s word but not come across judgmental, intolerant, or hypocritical.
Here’s What I Believe: We all sin and fall short of the glory of God. We live under grace; therefore we have the ability to rise up and start fresh when we fail. As Christians we are called to live like Christ and strive to live a sinless life. It is hard, but it is not impossible to do so. We are not to judge others. We are to love our neighbors. We are to speak the truth of God.
So, how do we accomplish all that when it seems so contradictory? We love and live like Jesus.
I can hear the groans from here. I know. I understand. I wanted a better answer as well. It seems like such a cliché, but it is the truth. So, what does it mean to love like Jesus? How do we live like Jesus?
I think the first part of the answer is obvious: we imitate Jesus.
Ephesians 5:1-2 “Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. 2 Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us[a] and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.” (NLT)
1 John 2:6 “Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.” (NLT)
John 13:34 “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.”(NLT)
I don’t know about you, but I often think it is impossible for me to love like Jesus. After all, Jesus is God and it comes natural to him, right? In addition, Jesus is love. I mean if I were love, I am sure I could love well too. Crazy, I know, but am I the only who thinks these weird thoughts? The truth of the matter is God would not instruct us to do something in the Bible that we aren’t able to accomplish. We may not always love perfectly, but we can keep trying and keep striving. After all, Philippians 4:13 tells us that we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength.
When I think of imitating Jesus’ love, I often reflect on the story of the women at the well and how Jesus ministered to her in truth and love.
John 4 “Jesus[a] knew the Pharisees had heard that he was baptizing and making more disciples than John 2 (though Jesus himself didn’t baptize them—his disciples did). 3 So he left Judea and returned to Galilee.
4 He had to go through Samaria on the way. 5 Eventually he came to the Samaritan village of Sychar, near the field that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there; and Jesus, tired from the long walk, sat wearily beside the well about noontime. 7 Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Please give me a drink.” 8 He was alone at the time because his disciples had gone into the village to buy some food.
9 The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans.[b] She said to Jesus, “You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?”
10 Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.”
11 “But sir, you don’t have a rope or a bucket,” she said, “and this well is very deep. Where would you get this living water? 12 And besides, do you think you’re greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us this well? How can you offer better water than he and his sons and his animals enjoyed?”
13 Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. 14 But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”
15 “Please, sir,” the woman said, “give me this water! Then I’ll never be thirsty again, and I won’t have to come here to get water.”
16 “Go and get your husband,” Jesus told her.
17 “I don’t have a husband,” the woman replied.
Jesus said, “You’re right! You don’t have a husband— 18 for you have had five husbands, and you aren’t even married to the man you’re living with now. You certainly spoke the truth!”
19 “Sir,” the woman said, “you must be a prophet. 20 So tell me, why is it that you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place of worship, while we Samaritans claim it is here at Mount Gerizim,[c] where our ancestors worshiped?”
21 Jesus replied, “Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans know very little about the one you worship, while we Jews know all about him, for salvation comes through the Jews. 23 But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. 24 For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.”
25 The woman said, “I know the Messiah is coming—the one who is called Christ. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
26 Then Jesus told her, “I AM the Messiah!”[d]
27 Just then his disciples came back. They were shocked to find him talking to a woman, but none of them had the nerve to ask, “What do you want with her?” or “Why are you talking to her?” 28 The woman left her water jar beside the well and ran back to the village, telling everyone, 29 “Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did! Could he possibly be the Messiah?” 30 So the people came streaming from the village to see him.”
When I read this story, I am amazed how Jesus was able to reach this women without doing anything extraordinary. There were no miracles. There were no healings. He showed her kindness, love, mercy, and forgiveness just by talking to her when no one else would have even acknowledged her. He spoke to her; he did not speak down to her. He did not carry signs with his beliefs in red marker and march around and around the well. He did not yell, threaten, or get physical. He let her know that he knew her, knew what she had done, but he was willing to still love her (he showed that by just talking to her). He spoke truth without condemnation or making her feel less than. Over the years I have come to the conclusion that it in addition to speaking in love, there was something the women saw in him that drew her to him. I have always assumed that love, peace, gentleness, and so forth just poured out of this man and people could just feel the peace that surrounded him. I have been around people like that before (on a rare occasion) and it is something to behold, so I can’t even begin to imagine what it would be like to talk and share with Jesus.
What do people see when they look at you? What do people hear when they talk to you? Do they see Jesus? Do they see love? Do they hear love? Do you speak with gentleness? Do you use kind words? I know if somebody was asking me the answer would be “not usually.” If we have the fruits of His spirit, people will be more inclined to listen to us because they will see Jesus in us; they will see what the women at the well saw. So, how do we get the ability or strength to imitate Jesus and produce fruit? We must abide in and obey God.
Sadly, I am out of time and space and will have to continue on our journey of learning to love tomorrow. We will start off with abiding and obeying God. I apologize for any inconvenience, I had no idea where God was leading me today.
Until next time, stay safe and God bless,