Love Your Neighbor As Yourself…as Long as He’s a Christian

29 May

Sometimes I log in to Facebook and immediately cringe. Not for the reasons you’re thinking, either. Not because of the guy who seems to do nothing but post pictures of hot, scantily-clad women. Not because of the girl who makes cryptic posts about being in a bad mood and then expects you to ask for all the details.

Nope. Most of the cringing I do on Facebook is because of my Christian friends.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my Christian friends. And I’m sure they love me, despite the fact that I’m not shy about speaking my opinion on social justice and Christianity. But the thing is, I’m not 100% sure they really love people who don’t agree with them. In the past few months, my Christian friends have posted Scripture and daily devotions, which probably don’t do much to reach non-Christians but are of value to fellow Christians. They’ve also posted links to petitions about gay marriage and abortion legislation, or personal attacks on the President, or criticisms of people of other faiths…which are probably all huge turn-offs to non-Christians.

The upshot is, a lot of my Christian friends don’t seem to feel very warm towards non-Christians. And this is a problem.

Look at Mark 12: 29-31: “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Or what about John 13: 34-35: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

This is Jesus talking, y’all. And He’s telling us that we’re supposed to be easily recognized by how much we love people. I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling disgustingly inadequate right about now.

One of the most important people in my life is a very intelligent woman with a background in science. She’s a great conversationalist, she’s incredibly talented…and she’s not exactly a Christian. Yet in conversations with her, I have learned more about my own beliefs and the short-comings of the church than I have while talking to many of my Christian friends. I’ve learned about her background and how she approaches the idea of belief. I’ve heard first-hand her questions about abortion and science. I’ve had some amazing discussion with her about why I believe what I believe, and trying to learn why she feels the way she does.

And I have to tell you, I feel like my relationship with this woman is more genuine, more productive, than my relationship with, for instance, a Christian friend whose daughter just went away to college and met a gay person for the first time. This Christian friend is suddenly forced to interact with a gay person on a semi-regular basis. And this Christian friend can’t seem to get beyond the issue of sexuality to see the actual person.

It’s hard to love someone if you don’t even see him as a real person.

I know I’m not perfect at loving people. It’s a struggle. Heck, it’s a struggle to love the members of my family sometimes, let alone people who aren’t as smart or educated or funny as I am. It’s a big struggle to love the big name right-wing folks that I feel are giving Christianity a bad name. It’s a huge struggle to love politicians, am I right?

But the first step to loving someone is realizing that person is human, just like I am.

In the meantime, anybody have an idea of what to say to my Christian Facebook friends?

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3 Responses to “Love Your Neighbor As Yourself…as Long as He’s a Christian”

  1. edarnut May 31, 2012 at 2:23 am #

    Finally found the time to sit at the computer and write this up. I have so, so many facebook friends like that, too.

    The charge to love others is all over the Old Testament, Jesus commanded it often, and the letters in the New Testament affirm it. We are to love, and no professing Christian can disagree with that or create exceptions.

    That’s where it gets tricky. The command to love is undeniable. If love for others is is the mark of a disciple, then to call a professed believer unloving is to call that person unsaved, and that’s why the accusation is rarely met well. The person who is using facebook to share scripture, devotionals, and ultra-conservative links does love others…in theory, but not in practice. 1 John 3:18 says, “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”

    That person has forgotten that clicking a “share” button is not ministry, that signing a petition is not action. And they’ve bought into the lie that equates evangelism with political action. (Related side note: On the opposite extreme, quite a few of my gay friends on facebook don’t seem to have gotten the memo about the futility of responding to hatred with hatred.)

    I try to approach my Christian friends with an attitude of “help me understand where you’re coming from” instead of “here’s where you’re wrong”. I don’t always say the right thing to those people. And there are some people I just don’t bother with, but just pray that they either get convicted on their own or that they turn off as few people as possible. But I do know that in every response there needs to be room for both of us to open up a Bible. I can’t convince anyone of anything, but God’s word can.

    And I’m of the opinion that a true, growing faith shouldn’t be turning Democrats into Republicans or vice versa. A deepening relationship with Christ and an expanding knowledge of his word should make political moderates of us all.

    • SWC June 4, 2012 at 2:37 am #

      I aways look forward to your comments! You give me a lot to think about. I had never really considered that using the word “unloving” towards a believer is calling their salvation into question. I’ve never intended it that way, when I’ve said or thought it, but your comment made me realize that how it comes across is much more hurtful and inflammatory than I’ve meant it to be.

      I have a feeling I could write an entire blog post or three about this topic…thanks for giving me so much to think about!

      In the meantime, I’ve backed away from commenting on a lot of things that make me cringe on Facebook (which is probably a good policy anyway for preserving my sanity no matter who is posting what). 🙂

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  1. Love and Salvation « singlewhitechristian - June 6, 2012

    […] pointed out something that had never occurred to me before. She said, “If love for others is is the mark of a […]

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