Revolutionary Love

My ten year-old son is not a singer.

Don’t get me wrong. He likes music. He’ll often ask to listen to specific songs, but he usually sits in quiet reflection while they play rather than in animated karaoke (which is much more my daughter’s speed). So when my reserved, pensive child starts singing (even if it’s quietly), this momma listens.

Such was the case a few days ago. He requested the song “Revolutionary” by Josh Wilson. If you haven’t heard it, I highly recommend it. You can listen here, if you wish. I love Christian radio, and I’d heard the song a million times. But there was something striking about hearing my son’s quiet voice from the backseat say:

“Why does kindness seem revolutionary? When did we let hate get so ordinary?”

From the mouths of babes, right?

Because it’s true. Kindness is revolutionary in our culture today. So much so, in fact, that doing something simple like paying it forward at drive-through often makes the news. Hate has become our default state-of-mind. Getting flipped off in traffic, being treated rudely at the supermarket check-out, even hearing elected leaders spout off nasty rhetoric is almost a mundane experience; it’s expected. More than that, sometimes it seems as if it’s being taught. Whether it be because of different political parties, different skin colors, different religions, ethnicities, backgrounds–for the culture that professes to idolize “tolerance,” we sure do have a lot of categories in which to place “us” vs. “them” and which, therefore, gives us liberty to not only feel superior, but also denigrate those in a different group.

“Agreeing to disagree” no longer exists. “Forebearance” is only for those who are like me. And who has time for kindness in this “me first” world?

Yet, for professing Christians, this is the most basic commandment. As Jesus said in 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 you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

If we are followers of Jesus, we are called to love one another. Plain and simple. But “loving one another” doesn’t just stop at your friends or fellow believers. In Luke 6, Jesus expanded on this idea by saying:

“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you” (verses 27-31).

As I read this over this very famous and oft-quoted piece of Scripture, something occurred to me that hadn’t before. Sometimes, as a Christian, I can feel like I’m doing okay in this whole “love your enemy” department because I’m not actively seeking harm against those who oppose me. I’m not “cursing” them. I’m not retaliating against them. When someone comes up against me, my default reaction is to walk away. My “kindness” is in non-confrontation.

But that’s not what Jesus is saying here. Loving our enemies doesn’t come from passivity; it comes from action. It’s not about rolling over and turning the other cheek in the cultural sense; it’s about being intentional and engaged in loving those who don’t love us. It’s not walking away. It’s opening our arms.

Proverbs 25 puts it this way:

If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.” (verse 21)

If our enemy sat before us, hungry and thirty, the natural, “human” response would be to scoff. A so-called “good person” may simply walk away. But we are called to action; we are called to offer food and drink.

Why? Because that’s how God loved us.

“Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior” (Colossians 1:21). This verse makes clear that, at one time, we were God’s enemies because of our sin. And God could have just left us like that, but He didn’t. Because of His great love for us–because He IS love–He chose to love us. And that didn’t mean just looking the other way.

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Intentional, engaged, sacrificial love. Active love.

Love we cannot ever hope to be able to do on our own.

And that’s the point. God not only gave us an example of what it means to love our enemies, He gives us a way to do it–through the Holy Spirit, offered to us upon acceptance of the gift of salvation and faith in Christ. You see, Jesus’s command was meant to be challenging; it was meant to be impossible. We cannot hope to live in obedience to it without Him.

Hate is ordinary. We are called to be different.

And what makes us different is Him.

“This is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” –1 John 4:10-11

Through Jesus, we can see others as God sees us.

Not as enemies, but as human beings in need of His love.

In need of Him.

Let’s be active in our love, friends. Let’s be revolutionary.

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