By now you are likely familiar with the debate on the Religious Freedom Bill in Indiana. I don't want to talk about the law (there are enough people doing that already). I want to talk about the heart behind the debate. I want to talk about how as Christians, we are treating an entire community of God's people.
Lets start with Matthew 22:39. Jesus says "love your neighbor as yourself."
Not love your neighbor IF.... they are rich.
Not love your neighbor IF... they are a good Christian.
Not love your neighbor IF... they believe in God.
Not love your neighbor IF... they are straight.
Not love your neighbor IF... they practice the same religion.
There are no exceptions to this rule.
We have to stop being a church that loves IF.
The most important thing we're supposed to do as Christians is to love other people.. ALL people. God designed us to love people unconditionally, because that is how God loves us. The hope is that through us, others might discover the unconditional love of Christ. This is the Great Commission of Matthew 28, "go and make Disciples of all nations."
We don't get to pick and chose who God loves, and we don't get to chose who we show God's love to. We must love everyone unconditionally, the same way God loves us.
Don't think they deserve it? Guess what, you don't either.
No one is perfect. The Bible is clear - we are all sinners (Romans 3:23). We are all guilty and we all deserve death (Romans 6:23). The wages of (ALL) sin is death! All sin is the same in God's eyes.
We have to stop using sin and hate to separate us from our neighbors. We can't tell someone we love them and in the same sentence refuse to serve them because of their sexual orientation. We can't tell someone we love them, but treat them different because of what they believe. That is not love.
Jesus didn't turn away people who were different. He didn't reject those who were living in sin. He ran to them, with arms wide open and a promise of hope and new life.
"It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." (Mark 2:17)
Why do we have such a hard time with this as the church? Why do we spend so much time and energy distancing ourselves from the very people who need the Gospel the most? How can we expect people to love Jesus, if we don't love people the way Jesus loved people? If we reject people based on their sin, we are telling them that God rejects them. And if that's the message we're sending, how will they ever come to know how much God loves them? How will they ever respect and come to understand the Gospel?
We have to stop being a church that loves people "if." We have to become a church that loves people "because."
We love BECAUSE Jesus first loved us, even when we don't deserve it.
We love BECAUSE Jesus didn't shun sinners. He went out of his way to spend time with them, to minister to them.
We love BECAUSE Jesus came to rescue and restore ALL people.
We love BECAUSE it's not our place to call out the practices of those who haven't signed on to be Christians (See 1 Corinthians 5:12).
The quickest way to turn someone away from Jesus forever, is through rejection and hate. We have to stop telling people what's wrong with them and instead start telling them who loves them!
We have to stop being a church that loves IF and start being a church that loves BECAUSE. When that happens, we will radically change the way the world views Christianity and Christ. We can't keep pushing people away.
Hate will never win people for Christ. Rejection will never change hearts for Christ. Only love can do that. And here's the thing: You don't have to agree with everything someone says or believes, to love them.
You just love them.