Ok, it’s time for a true confession. I wasn’t raised Catholic, but I’m ready to confess.
I remember years ago mom and I sitting in an airport so we could “people watch.”
But let’s call it what it really is. It was more like we slipped on black robes while holding a gavel and began to “people judge” or “people criticize.”
We weren’t looking for the Divine, or for beauty in the passersby. Love was not pouring out. It was pretty much the exact opposite of Philippians 4:8:
Summing it all up, friends. I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious- the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.
We were criticizing their clothes, hair style, make-up, weight, facial features, etc.. And it wasn’t like we were supermodels. We certainly had a lot of room for improvement! But at that moment, we were eliminating the “threat” to ourselves that we weren’t as pretty, or thin, or stylish, etc. by criticizing others.
And yet, the next day we would be in church singing songs about how much we love God and hear scripture about love, and wouldn’t think twice about what we were doing the day before.
Loving God includes loving people
Are you loving people as much as you profess to love God? Clearly there was a big gap for mom and me. About a year ago we read this verse found in 1 John that brought to light this gap in our Christian faith.
If anyone boasts, I love God, and goes right on hating his brother or sister, thinking nothing of it, he is a liar. If he won’t love the person he can see, how can he love the God he can’t see? The command we have from Christ is blunt: Loving God includes loving people. You’ve got to love both. – 1 John 4:20 (MSG)
Christians are to love God who we can’t see and love the people we can see. But Satan constantly uses fear to put labels on people that blind us from seeing them as a person worthy of love.
Nowhere does it say, “love all those who are really nice to you, those who look like you, those who share your same political beliefs, same religious beliefs, the same sexual orientation, same color, those who are employed; and everyone else get nothing.”
Love makes life SO much easier
Mom and I talked about a misconception we’ve had about sin and love, and maybe you have the same misconception.
We know we are born sinful and unclean, and through Christ’s death and resurrection we are made clean and righteous. But we always had the idea that, as Christians, we are constantly trying to keep from sinning and suppress our sinful nature. And while it is true, we are to keep from giving into temptation, we came across this verse:
Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.
– I Peter 4:8 (NIV)
It was like a light bulb turned on! Mom and I realized we needed to quit trying to suppress the jealousy and envy in ourselves. If we were practicing real love, there would be nothing to suppress. We needed to stop focusing on the limitations of ourselves and others, and instead focus on loving people. Our motto is: just love them.
As we encounter people who look different, who think differently or make choices that are different than we would make, we are learning to just love them; not condemn, not judge, not point out their sin, nor criticize.
As Calvin Coolidge once said, “Little progress can be made by merely attempting to repress what is evil; our great hope lies in developing what is good.”
Here’s the thing- you don’t have to try to fix them or judge them. Let go of your need to control and just love them. As you consciously focus on reflecting God’s love, amazing things will start to happen!
- You start to find God in every person you encounter.
- What you focus on persists. So as you focus on showing love and kindness, you in turn will be shown love and kindness.
- It frees up space in your heart and mind to put God at the center.
- As you do away with fear and judgment, your world expands. It connects you to new people and opportunities which move you closer to your personal dreams and goals.
By no means have mom and I mastered this concept. But with this new understanding, and with the power found in scripture, we are increasing the ratio of love versus judgment. And on our good days (when we are mindful of loving vs judging) there is a “lightness” to the day. It’s as if everything is easier, there is a perpetual feeling of appreciation, kindness, and most of all a feeling of peace, gratitude and love.
So the next time you want to play the “people-watching game,” change the rules. Think and speak words of love about the people you can see, and by doing so you are loving the God you can’t see.