As the world gets busier and more complex, it's easy to forget the importance of love and acceptance. But as Bob Goff says, "Most people need love and acceptance a lot more than they need advice." As followers of Jesus, we are called to be a source of love and acceptance for those around us. Let's take a moment to reflect on this powerful message and find ways to incorporate it into our daily lives.
In 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, the Apostle Paul writes, "If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing." This passage reminds us that love is the foundation of all good things in life. Without love, even the most impressive accomplishments are empty and meaningless.
There are countless examples in the Bible of Jesus showing love and acceptance to those around Him. In John 8:1-11, a woman caught in adultery is brought before Jesus. The religious leaders want to stone her to death, but Jesus responds with love and forgiveness. He says to the woman, "Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more." In this moment, Jesus shows that love and acceptance can be more potent than judgment and punishment.
It's important to remember that love and acceptance don't always come naturally to us. We live in a world that often values success and achievement above all else. But as Christians, we are called to a higher standard. We are called to love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:31) and to treat others as we would like to be treated (Luke 6:31).
We can incorporate love and acceptance into our daily lives by focusing on building relationships with those around us. We can really listen to others and offer them encouragement and support. We can look for ways to serve others and show them they are valued and appreciated.
Another way we can show love and acceptance is by practicing forgiveness. It's easy to hold grudges and focus on the negative aspects of others. Still, as followers of Jesus, we are called to forgive as we have been forgiven (Colossians 3:13). When we forgive others, we show them that we value them as individuals and are willing to let go of hurt and resentment.
In conclusion, let's take Bob Goff's words to heart and prioritize love and acceptance in our lives. Let's look for ways to build relationships with those around us, practice forgiveness, and show others they are loved and valued. As we do so, we will be living out the call of Christ to love one another as He has loved us (John 15:12).
Love is a powerful force in the world, capable of overcoming even the most difficult obstacles and transforming lives. Yet, all too often, our love is conditional and comes with a list of qualifications and preconditions. We love only those who love us back or look, think, and act like us. But true love, the love of Jesus, knows no bounds.
One of my least favorite statements is "Love the sinner; hate the sin." This statement is destructive and rooted in poor theology. This statement tries to give our bias a pious way out of our privilege to lavish love upon others. The phrase has judgment at its core, which goes against the love described in 1 Corinthians 13. A better phrase is: "Love everyone and work with God on your sin." A better phrase is: "Love everyone and work with God on your sin."
In John 13:34-35, Jesus commands us to love one another, just as he has loved us. This is a love that goes beyond our personal preferences and biases and extends to all people, regardless of their race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or social status. It is a love that transcends all boundaries and embraces everyone as they are.
But this love is not just a passive acceptance of others. It requires action, sacrifice, and a willingness to go the extra mile. As Galatians 5:6 reminds us, love is not just a feeling but a force that drives us to do good for others and to make a positive impact on the world.
One of my favorite quotes about love comes from Martin Luther King Jr., who said, "Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." This statement is a powerful reminder that love can heal even the deepest wounds and bring about real and lasting change. Love is the most excellent way (1 Corinthians 12:31).
So, let us love without qualifiers or preconditions. Let us reach out to those who are different from us and extend a hand of kindness and compassion. Let us love everyone, just as Jesus loves us, and let our love reflect his grace and mercy in the world.
In conclusion, let us remember that loving well means loving without qualifications or preconditions. Let us go out into the world and love like Jesus, for he has called us to be a light in the darkness and to bring healing and hope to a broken and hurting world.
Loving well is at the core of who we are as followers of Jesus. We are called to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:30-31). This is a tall order, but one that is crucial for us to live out our faith in a meaningful and impactful way.
The power of love is immeasurable. It can heal, restore, and bring hope to even the darkest situations. When we #LoveWell, we become beacons of light in a world seemingly overwhelmed by darkness. As Maya Angelou once said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” When we #LoveWell, we leave a lasting impact on those around us.
In 1 Corinthians 13, we read about the qualities of love: patience, kindness, and selflessness. We should strive to embody these qualities as we love those around us. Love is not simply a feeling but a choice that we make each and every day. It is choosing to put the needs of others before our own and extend grace, even when it is difficult.
Loving well starts with those closest to us. It begins with our family and friends but should not stop there. We are called to love everyone, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or background. This type of love is not easy, but it is essential. As we love those around us, we become a reflection of God’s love to the world.
In conclusion, loving well is not just a nice idea; it is a mandate from God. It is the foundation of our faith and how we live our lives. Let us strive to #LoveWell and be patient, kind, and selfless in all we do. Let us make a lasting impact on those around us and be a reflection of God’s love to the world.
In Colossians 2, the Message translation says this, “When you were stuck in your old sin-dead life, you were incapable of responding to God. God brought you alive—right along with Christ! Think of it! All sins forgiven, the slate wiped clean, that old arrest warrant canceled and nailed to Christ’s cross” (Colossians 2:13-15 MSG). Jesus took our cross and gave us His crown. Now, what does this mean?
In Galatians 3:13 (NIV) it tells us that, “Christ redeemed us,” that is- He bought us, “From the curse of the law.” Remember that old arrest warrant has been cancelled (Colossians 2). There’s an arrest warrant for our life. “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole'" (Galatians 3:13). Jesus willingly allowed Himself to go to the cross. In fact, the Bible doesn’t say He just allowed Himself, but it tells us that He resolutely set out for Jerusalem, where He knew the cross was waiting for Him.
Jesus resolutely set out to go to the cross. Now that isn’t to say that He didn’t want to bypass the cross. He was fully God AND He was fully man. In Matthew 26:39 we read, "Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will." Jesus Christ took our cross. We are the guilty ones (Romans 3:23). He is the innocent one (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Now while He died so that we would be forgiven, He also died so that we who were far off from God could be brought near to God. For He Himself, the Bible tells us, reconciled the two of us that were made hostile to one another (Ephesians 2:15). God loved us so much (John 3:16) that even while we were enemies to Him, Christ died for us (Romans 5:10). Because of Jesus, we are no longer enemies, but children of God and heirs of the kingdom (Romans 8:17). We are sons and daughters of the Most High God. Imagine how this understanding of our identity could change our daily living. No longer are we defined by our dysfunction or the dysfunction of those around us. We can silence the voices of our past that have wounded us with the new song placed (Psalm 40:3) within our hearts by our loving Father who says, "You are mine!"
The question that I continually face is “Am I willing to lay down my life so that others may live?” This is a terribly haunting and troubling question. What does it really mean to lay down one’s life? Is it just a matter of giving up a heartbeat for another, or is it also allowing one’s heart to break, so that others may live? I tend to think it is to be willing for both to happen, not only for our friends, but also for our enemies. The death of Jesus represents both concepts in regards to laying down one’s life. “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).
In 2013, God sent me two treks to begin to show me what this means. He sent me to Kenya to look into the eyes of the orphaned, and He sent me to our streets to look through the eyes of the homeless. Through these experiences, He broke my heart. He showed me how apart from His grace, that I too am spiritually orphaned and homeless. He then called me to give more of my life “so that others may live.”
Recently, I was led to the story of Esther, who was a Jewish queen of the Persian King Ahasuerus. She was out of place, and living between two different worlds—of the Jews and the Persians. Her uncle, Mordecai, informed Esther of a decree that would exterminate the Jews. Esther was reluctant to speak because of her fear of the King, but Mordecai replied to her: “Do not think to yourself that in the king's palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (4:13-14). I believe I was led to this passage because I am frequently concerned about things, and yet, I do not speak up.
I am concerned that we as a corporate “Church” are shutting the “door of the kingdom of heaven in people's faces” (Matthew 23:13). The church is quick to recite John 3:16, but neglects to understand the amazing teaching found in the next verse: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” This verse is further illuminated in John 12:32, when Jesus says: “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” Notice that the message of God’s son is not condemnation, but acceptance for everyone! The Church, which bears the name of Christ, must share in dispensing the amazing grace and unconditional love that He demonstrated in His life, teachings, and death.
The love of Jesus is incarnational and we are called to model it! Incarnational love means that we model the spirit of Christ as found in Philippians 2:1-11, and engage in the ministry described in Luke 4:18-19: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because He has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Jesus did wait for people to come to Him, but He came to us! He came not to condemn, but to love and to show us the Father. He came to heal us and to sanctify us! Jesus tells us:"Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." Jesus came to tear down “the dividing wall of hostility” (Eph. 2:14), and to “reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven” (Col. 1:20). And, Paul exhorts us to be Christ’s ambassadors as we continue in the similar ministry of reconciliation! (2 Cor. 5:20).
It was two years ago today, June 12, 2016, that our nation witnessed a mass-killing at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida with 49 people killed and 53 others wounded. I was sickened by this news, but I also felt disheartened by the apathy and indifference of the majority of the American Christian church.
(Note: Part of what is written in this blog was from writings of mine during that time period.)
“People are suffering, and God’s people need to be there with them, loving them, and standing in the gap for them,” I thought. Wherever people are suffering, God’s people are called to stand by their side—in prayer and sacrificial loving actions.
After the Orlando shooting in the Pulse nightclub, there were statements found in newspaper articles and op-eds that referred to the nightclub as a form of “church” for the LGBT community. It was a form of 'church' because it offered this community a respite and safe harbor to be themselves. One particularly meaningful quote was by a gay man who regularly went to Pulse:
“While a lot of people turn to churches, LGBT communities are often forced to use nightclubs as our safe haven, and Pulse was mine. Although I had built armor to defend myself from the hatred that was spewed to me when I came out (including some from my own mother), the reality was that I still hated myself because of my identity as a gay man. It didn’t help that I had grown up in a church that had conditioned me to hate myself for loving other men.”
These sentiments are reflected in countless stories, and they cause me grief over my silence and lament for the Church that I love. The Church is supposed to be the place for everyone to hear the Good News, but sadly, it has turned many away because the love of most has grown cold.
Unfortunately, I have encountered, witnessed, and experienced similar stories. One statement I heard from a gay man, who has a great heart and loves God, was: “I would go to church, but I am not welcomed there.” While I found this disturbing, I also have to say that it is true.
As I continued my reflection of this tragedy in my time with God, I have felt a burning in my heart to speak up for the LGBTQ community and to challenge the assumptions, interpretations, and prejudices that have polluted our message.
For a while, I attempted to remain silent, preferring the status quo “peace” then to thrust myself into the fray. After all, I have personally witnessed the “bible slamming” that happens when someone speaks up from within the Christian community. However, the Pulse nightclub tragedy was a turning point in my life.
How could I remain silent? The Anglican Bishop Desmond Tutu wrote, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”
As I continued to pray in the aftermath of the Pulse nightclub tragedy, I was led to the story of Esther, who was a Jewish queen of the Persian king Ahasuerus. She was out of place and living between two different worlds—of the Jews and the Persians. Her uncle Mordecai informed Esther of a decree that would exterminate the Jews. Esther was reluctant to speak because of her fear of the King, but Mordecai replied to her:
“Do not think to yourself that in the king's palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (4:13-14).
I believe I was led to this passage because it was time for me to speak ”for such a time as this.” If I did not speak, then I am complicit in shutting the “door of the kingdom of heaven in people's faces” (Matthew 23:13).
The church is quick to recite John 3:16, but neglects to understand the fantastic teaching found in the next verse: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” This verse is further illuminated in John 12:32 when Jesus says: “And I when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” Notice that the message of God’s son is not condemnation, but acceptance for everyone! The Church, which bears the name of Christ, must share in dispensing the incredible grace and unconditional love that He demonstrated in His life, teachings, and death.
In our acceptance of everyone, including the LGBTQI community, we must work together to strive toward holiness. We must remember that holiness is not made possible by works, but by faith alone (Romans 3:28-30). Paul states in Ephesians 2:8, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.”
Our faith calls us to accept His grace, which then unleashes the creative and regeneration works of the Holy Spirit in making us a new creation in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17). If Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), then should we not trust Him, not only for ourselves but also for others, to finish that which He has started (Philippians 1:6)?
If we ere, let us always do so in being too loving and too gracious. I have never read a story in the Bible where anyone was condemned by God for loving or sharing too much.
Since that terrible day on June 12, 2016, I have come to trust more and more in God's amazing grace, not just for me, but for everyone! I have come to understand that there are many more questions then answers on this side of eternity. But, I am comforted in knowing that God is big enough to handle them all and His love is strong enough to calm us in the midst of the unknown. As the old song goes, "My hope is built on nothing less Than Jesus Christ, my righteousness; I dare not trust the sweetest frame, But wholly lean on Jesus’ name."
We must remember these wise words: “In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; in all things, love.”
David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them. "I cannot go in these," he said to Saul, "because I am not used to them." So he took them off. – 1 Samuel 17:39
Growing up and even today, I always appreciate the story of the young David, before he became king. The youngest of his siblings, David wasn’t even considered by his father, Jesse, as one who might be anointed king over Israel. Indeed, the prophet Samuel when looking at the other brothers was initially inclined to anoint one who seemed like the natural fit, but God had other intentions. In 1 Samuel 16:7 we read, “But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” And so, Samuel asks Jesse if there is another son and he summons David who is anointed King.
One of the greatest lessons that I have learned about God through the process of accepting myself, with all of my paradoxes, is how God's grace is so AMAZING. Just as God did with David, so he does with each of us—He looks at our hearts, our character, and our truest selves. In speaking to the prophet Jeremiah, God says: "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5). God knows us, loves us, and has a plan for us. Learning to accept this profound reality is essential in understanding who we truly are. It also requires us to unlearn what we have thought about ourselves for so long.
A sociologist name Charles Cooley formulated the concept of the “looking glass self.” In layman’s terms, it basically posits that our identity is shaped by what we think the most important person(s) in our lives think about us. Throughout our lives, we have many important people: parents, family, and friends. Also, sometimes we make people important, who really are not in the long run. Nonetheless, our thoughts and feelings about the perception of others about ourselves shape how we see ourselves and ultimately who we become. Proverbs 23:7 (KJV) states, “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.” Unfortunately, our thinking is not always our own and is not shaped by the one who truly matters—God. We take on the perceptions of others and call it 'truth', without ever examining whether it is the right fit, or truth, for us.
In 1 Samuel 17, we see that the Israelites are being tormented by Goliath. Day and night he is demeaning them and they begin to see themselves as he calls it. They buy into the deception and they are afraid. In verse 16, David enters on to the scene
and cannot believe what he is seeing and hearing, not from Goliath, but from his fellow Israelites. And so, David steps forward to take on Goliath. David was armed with a God-given identity and the assurance that came with it, but immediately his fellow countrymen tried to dissuade him from going out to challenge Goliath. Then in verses 38-39, King Saul gets David to put on his personal armor, but it did not fit David. Instead, he went out dressed like the shepherd boy that he was and brought down Goliath with five smooth stones.
David knew who he was because it was just confirmed by the prophet one chapter earlier. He had a God-given identity and because of that he knew what fit him and what did not. He did not succumb to the temptation to fit in with the others, rather he embraced his uniqueness and shed the hand-me-down armor of those were too afraid to fight for themselves. Of course, David had to ultimately wait for 20 years before finally becoming king of Israel. Perhaps this was necessary to truly learn his God-given identity and to embrace it, so that he would truly be “a man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22).
How many times are we like David with others trying to impose their identities upon us? How many time are we unlike David and willingly accept those identities because we want to fit in or it is simply easier? For so many years, my identity was based on trying to make other people happy and it came at a great expense because it didn’t make any of us happy. Most people are uncomfortable in their own “armor” to even think about your “armor.” As I tell people often, no one is thinking about you as often as you are thinking about yourself.
Above is a clip from the movie, "Love, Simon." In the scene, the mother is played by Jennifer Garner, and she affirms her son's identity after he came out to his family as gay. She tells him, "As soon as you came out, you said, “Mom, I’m still me.” I need you to hear this. You are still you, Simon. You are still the same son who I love to tease, and who your father depends on for just about everything. And you’re the same brother who always complements his sister on her food, even when it sucks. But you get to exhale now, Simon. You get to be more you than you have been in, in a very long time. You deserve everything you want."
I truly believe this is a message that God wants ALL of us to hear: "You are still YOU...you are still the same child that I love" and He wants us to be the best version of ourselves because He thinks we are AWESOME! Don't let anyone tell you that you are not.
Learning to be comfortable in your own skin is difficult. Simon states it pretty succulently in the movie, "Who you are to the world is pretty terrifying because what if the world doesn’t like you?"
Just remember: The world didn't accept Jesus--but He is still the King. The world does not get to define YOU and the world does NOT have the last word!
Dr. Rob Weinstein is the Founding/Senior Pastor of Bethany Grace Community Church in Bridgeton, NJ. He is also a Professor of Business Studies/Academic Director/Chair of Human Resource Management Studies. He is the Founder of the M25 Initiative, a nonprofit dedicated to ending homelessness and food insecurity in Cumberland County, NJ.
In addition, my thoughts and opinions change from time to time I consider this a necessary consequence of having an open mind.
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