Love in the “damned” world

Here’s an interesting question. What motivates your love? I’ll bet you, like me, wouldn’t admit to how shallow we are. No, really! We are attracted to beauty, babies, benevolence, brawn and booty. As we admire, desire and then require we crassly call this response “love”. We love what will feed our craving for recognition, for identity, for stuff, for our need to be needed and our lusts.

No, I’m not stuck on cynical. I remember when lightning struck and I married my “true love”. Maybe your experience was different but I was really clueless about true love at first. I was attracted to her in part as I described above. It was only after we built a history together that we learned to trust each other and love flourished; true love. I can’t imagine my life without her in it.

As Jesus followers, what if our love for others was really true and motivated from a higher ideal? What if our love was inclusive instead of exclusive? What if we returned from the quest for intellectual doctrinal perfection to contemplate and incarnate the love of Jesus to the imperfect and hurting community around us? We have arrogantly assigned ourselves the role of gatekeepers to Jesus’ love by qualifying and un-qualifying folks based on our own checklist. So, what about them? The unlovable, the marginal, the unchurched, the de-churched, those who don’t have their ducks in a row or have any ducks at all?

Then there are those “losers in life’s lottery” we see on the exit ramps; the other end of society. You’ve seen them. The story of their life scrawled on cardboard in two lines with the “God Bless” benediction at the end.

Brian McLaren writes in his book, The Girl with the Dove Tattoo; “God doesn’t just love the ideal world or the perfect world. God loves the damned world, the world full of evil and injustice and prejudice and violence. God’s love doesn’t start with the best and work down. God’s love starts with the worst and works up. God’s love begins with the damned.”

Our culture is so consumed and mind-numbingly satisfied with living vicariously through and with the beautiful people. Celebrity magazines, juicy titillating tidbits of gossip, entertainment shows and all things bizzar-o make up the daily world of too many. Then, when we hear of breakups, breakdowns and behavior that would embarrass animals we “tut-tut” judgmentally from a safe distance with our own finger-wagging, high road morality. In so doing we have abdicated our responsibility to our neighbor.

Brian goes on; “Jesus accepts everyone, just as they are, and then he asks everyone to accept one another, just as they are. That is love, and love is the highest standard of all.” Of course, we know this. But it is human nature for us to try to justify our own actions by pigeonholing others in order to draw attention away from and minimize our own failures.

The unintended consequences of our exclusive religious cultures may have contributed greatly to our maligning, and worse, ignoring others, in their pain. We justify our actions by comparing our fewer, well camouflaged failures, to the very public immoral manifestations by the “elite, effete snobbish” icons of entertainment, religion and politics.

But we keep up our religious activity and agenda. After all, doesn’t being an American Christian promise success in our personal life and love? Isn’t surrendering all to Jesus, forsaking worldly pleasures and enduring until we can move in to our Mansion the sum of life here?

I ask again, myself included. What motivates our love? Does it come from a consumptive drive, or a desire to possess or control someone? Or does it spring from a super-natural source outside of our natural abilities or desires? And really, how could it be true love if the source is rooted in self-centered, ego driven, identity feeding motives?

Happily, more and more followers of Jesus are discovering a better way; a Kingdom way. It has been there all the time. This is people of the book living the book, incarnating Jesus’ love in a culture of injustice, greed, eco-trashing, ethnic and religious polarization. They are preparing the way so His Kingdom can come: and it will come.

What if our love for others sprang from a growing, knowing relationship spring of His love for us? Then the love that flows from us is not ours but God’s pure, refreshing true love.

Does this resonate with you? How do we, as people of The Way, move away from building our own self-serving kingdom to building His? I should love to hear how you are touching those in your space of influence. I can learn from your story. Thank you.

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