For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16
It’s unfortunately common for Christians to communicate not love, but rather, hate to those whom we consider lost. We believe there is a narrow path to eternal life, and we want others to join us, but we also feel it’s our Christian duty to let others know how much we condemn their lifestyle. If you want to be like me, you need to clean up your act. The problem is that disapproval doesn’t attract anyone, and most people desperately want to avoid being anything like the hateful Christian.
We have a hard time with this though. Most of us in church don’t smoke, drink, or do drugs. We feel some pride in our shiny exterior and when we encounter someone who doesn’t act like us, our first thought is usually critical. How dumb can you be? Why would anyone live like that? Don’t you know how destructive your lifestyle is? We have this expectation that others become lovely to us, before we love them.
Today’s passage reveals the flaw in our plan. In what is the most well-known verse in the Bible, Jesus reveals God’s love, truth, and his plan. Jesus said that his father loved the world so much, that he sent his son to save it. God gave man the freedom to follow God’s way or his own way. Man chose his own way, separating him from God. God didn’t ask man to clean up before he would love man. Instead, he reached out in love, while man was still rebelling. I love you. Return to me.
As Christians, we’re commanded to carry the blessed message of the gospel to those who desperately need God’s love. In modeling Jesus, we must reach out to the hurting around us, doing what we can to share his love. So often though, we condemn first, insisting that others must change, prior to coming to Christ.
God does ask us to change of course. Repentance and transformation are lifelong processes that happen after we come to know him. Following Christ means daily abandoning our way for his. Following Christ also means loving those whom God loves. The father rarely asks us to hate our neighbors. As Christians, we should be the most loving people our neighbors know.