“Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God…Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love on another.” (1 John 4:7, 11, NRSV)
The events that I see reported every day in the news lead me to think that much of the world has forgotten that God’s world was created based on love. God created us to be loving, caring beings that nurture one another and seek ways that everyone might feel welcome and loved as well. Yet, there seems to be a selfish part of us that explodes into our culture and seeks to drown out the command to love.
What else can explain our penchant toward violence instead of understanding? What else can lead to war over communication? Somewhere, possibly on all sides, the issues that plague our world lead back to selfishness. Individuals, communities, and nations seem to be looking out for themselves instead of seeking what is best for the entire world. God’s Creation is so much bigger than any one person or country; God gave us a world to share and care for. Selfishness, however, is destroying what God planned from the outset. We seem, to be afraid of each other; we live in a world of strangers and I wonder if we really want to get to know those who are not us.
“Welcoming strangers is a privilege and a blessing. When we open our lives and receive the stranger, we are changed. We experience the world through their eyes and see life anew; host and guest both experience blessing. But hospitality is not always easy. Hospitality can be inconvenient, disruptive, and even risky. [John] Wesley reminds us that God welcomes us first through, ‘free, almighty grace’ (Sermon 43: “The Scripture Way of Salvation”). Because God welcomes us we can welcome others, especially strangers who are vulnerable and without resources. When we welcome ’the least of these,’ we welcome Jesus (Matthew 25:40). We do not screen strangers to determine who is worthy of welcome because we know Jesus is present there. For Wesley, the life of a ‘genuine Christian’ is infused with God’s love so that acts of mercy, such as welcoming the stranger, are at the heart of witness. God receives us with open arms. We receive others with open arms, and thereby receive the blessing of Christ with us.” (Wesley Study Bible, page 1526)
Theologian N.T. Wright suggests that we followers of Christ are reluctant to really get to know Jesus deeply because, when we do, we begin to realize the full intent of the Good News of the Kingdom of God on earth. The Good News is that God intends for humanity to learn how to live together on earth “as it is in heaven”. To do so means to set aside our selfishness and understand that every single living creature on the planet is created by and loved by God. All of humanity must begin to realize that the only way we can survive is if we survive together, and the only way we can survive together is if we learn to love one another as God has loved us.
It is a tall order and it applies to all of us: Americans, and those who live in other countries. It applies to Christians, Muslims, Jews, and all others. It applies to those who live within the law and those who choose to live outside it. It is a commandment that is absolutely impossible for us to obey – by ourselves…This is where we all must learn to believe in and trust the one true God who is the only one who can help us learn how to accomplish this lofty goal. As we seek that day when God’s kingdom comes to rule this world, we must continue to do all that we can to love and welcome others. We must be willing to risk everything to show people the love of Jesus Christ.
Seeking to love more,