As a child, I really did want to be like Jesus. I grew up with the following song:
Jesus loves the little children
All the children of the world…
So as a kid, I thought I must be ok. Because Jesus loves children and I love children. I love God, and I love my family. And I’m nice to almost everyone. So when Jesus tells us in Mark 12:30-31 (NKJV) “Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” I felt I was ok in God’s eyes. Love God - check. Love others - check.
I was reading in I John the other day. First John 2: 9-11 NASB) says, “The one who says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now. The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” Hate?? I couldn’t think of anyone I hated. Again, I felt pretty good about loving people. Then I discovered the Greek verb translated as hate can mean disregard, disrespect, detest, dismiss as unimportant.
I began reminiscing how I showed love to people in my past. Part of my responsibility as a pastor in North Carolina was to shake hands with people leaving the service. There were people I quickly shook their hand and moved them along, so I could talk with people I really wanted to talk with. I dismissed them as unimportant. They had nothing of value for me personally. They weren’t like me. I didn’t do anything to demonstrate any great regard. I was just…sort of nice.
I also remembered how I used to disrespect older adults when I was younger. No, I didn’t do anything harmful or overtly disrespectful. I just didn’t go out of my way to…respect them. Their abilities. Their giftedness. Their backgrounds. Listen to their stories. I just disregarded them...as old.
Then I looked at the I John text again. “The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him.” Then I realized, love means to do just the opposite of hate. To respect, to regard, to value as important.
So now I have a new definition of love. First John 4:11 (NASB) says, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love (respect, regard, value as important) one another.”
You see…Everybody is somebody for whom Jesus died. Everybody is somebody God loves.
I have some work to do today in modeling God’s love for people. Do you?