Christians’ “Love” vs. God’s Love

I will preface this post with a simple statement:  I make no apologies for honesty, yet I have no aim to offend.  That being said let me just go ahead and lay out what is irking me today.

Love.  Christians and their “love” particularly, because I believe we (Christians) have been doing dangerous things to both the word, the value, and the context of love.  It’s time for change.  Or, maybe, it’s time someone just show me the error of my thoughts about this.  Either way:  something needs to give.

Love

I am 22 years old and have been a Christian half of my life (I accepted salvation at age 11).  I know God loves me to an extent that even after over a decade I still cannot fully know the depths to.  I know that for Jesus, blameless and holy, to die on a cross for all of us who through our sins deserve the punishment of death, He had to have loved us more than we can really comprehend.  Jesus and God both tell us over and over in scripture that we, as sinful people, are loved.  God loves us.  Jesus loves us.

Faithful Love

How can we be sure?  Well, God loves us so much that He created us just so we can experience His goodness and live forever with Him in glory.  He loves us so much that He sacrificed His blameless, holy, and only Son on a cross through a torturous death so that we can be forgiven of our sins – that we do not have to bear the punishment of death for the sins that we commit daily.  And Jesus, oh sweet Jesus!  He was perfect – fully man and fully God.  He never sinned.  His eternal home was all ready going to be Heaven.  He didn’t need to die on that cross for His own benefit.  He chose to go through an insane amount of torture, ridicule, and hurt to sacrifice Himself since we could never do that ourselves.  Jesus loves each of us enough that He gave Himself to pay for the wrongs that we commit because He wants to know us, He wants us to know Him, and He wants us to spend forever in the love and glory of His Father with Him in Heaven.  That’s a love of love for the pure sake of love.

Now, basically the lasting command that Jesus gave all of us before He went back to Heaven to chill with God was to love God and love one another.  Okay, so He wants us to love one another?  And He said that God is love so by Him we shall know what love is and how to love.  Sounds simple enough, right?  Apparently that just isn’t so.

Simply Love

We as humans complicate everything, I’ve found.  You know, dogs have it figured out.  They get excited when their human(s) comes home and they spend all day just trying to love those who they are around.  Animals are smart — and simple.  But humans, oh we are so complex.  We complicate.  We compare.  We rationalize.  We justify.  We modify.

Dog Love

It’s come to my attention that there are two major different camps of Christians these days when it comes to “love” or “loving on people”:  the Over-lookers and the Reprimanders.  You may find yourself right now immediately pulling towards one and justifying yourself.  Stop.  Be simple.  Admit, change, and find a balance.  You may be sitting there and thinking “I’m more of a half-and-half kind of person.”  Good!  You should be.  Balance is the simple essence of real love here.

First, let us take a gander at the Over-lookers.  This camp of Christians is what many would consider the hippies, the hipsters, the overall “anything goes” kind-of people.  They claim that to “love” others you have to overlook all the sin that bonds them, ignore it, and just accept them as is.  These are the ones who are infamous about proclaiming the “judge not lest ye be judged” verse in any and all context.  They also heavily rely on the “look at the speck in your own eye” scripture.  You’ll know these people.  The whole “oh, you abuse your children and you cheat on your spouse?  That’s okay, we all sin.  I love you!” bit is the same record over and over.  That is, unless you disagree with them.  If another Christian, perhaps, tries to talk to someone about the sin that person is struggling with, then the Over-lookers immediately deem said Christian as “judgmental” or “self-righteous.”  The Over-lookers love everyone – unless you don’t agree with them.  Then you’re bad and you need to change.  If you aren’t like them or aren’t blindly accepting of their ways or words, you better be ready to be told that you are not a “real Christian” and you are bad for the Kingdom.  Ahem.  These are the same ones who will get angry at me (a Christian) for calling out something I see wrong with other Christians.  Don’t get angry at me – I’m just calling it like I’ve seen it.

Over-Looking Love

Let’s look at the other end of the spectrum now:  the Reprimanders.  This camp of Christians is often considered to be the older generations, but in fact, have many young people.  These are often found hiding behind the justification of being a conservative.  They claim that to “love” others you have to call them out on their sin and keep telling them what they are doing wrong so that they can repent and change.  These are the ones who will be flaunting the “better an open reprimand than concealed love” verse as their lives’ mission statement.  They will also claim that since they are only reprimanding out of love “and righteous judgment” then it is an act of Biblical love.  The Reprimanders love to be “helpful” in showing others what needs improvement, yet often are upset if someone tries to do the same for them.  Their “love” goes only as far as what they personally believe, and they will be the first ones to let you know – they always know everything about how a Christian should live.  The Reprimanders are easily the ones to come off pushy.  While the Over-lookers are more likely to lead Non-Believers to avoid repentance, the Reprimanders are more likely to offend Non-Believers to a point that they are off-put from Christianity as a whole.  The Reprimanders will be the ones who argue that I must not know enough of the Bible to understand their ways, that I need to devote more time to studying the Bible.  Oh, and I’m sure they would be telling me that I should be writing a lecture to those who are alcoholics, murderers, rapists, or those other “bad” people who need Jesus (more than they do, of course.

Reprimanding Love

Maybe now you’re feeling a little convicted and instead of fuming in anger at me, you’ve decided to read on.  Good for you!  (Seriously, there is no sarcasm there.)  If you can see how you are easily an Over-looker or without a doubt a Reprimander, don’t worry.  I find myself in both camps in different situations, too.  We’re imperfect people.  We won’t ever be flawless at this whole love thing.  But, and that is a turning point ‘but,’ we can try to be more balanced in order to have real love instead of synthetic version of Christianese love.

The best way I know how to put into words the balance between the anything-goes Overlookers and the everything is black and white Reprimanders is to take the words straight out of the Bible.  Is that okay with you?  Good, I hoped it would be.  I had it feeling it might, but I thought I’d ask just in case.  (Note:  if you answered “no,” please stop reading in order to save your time.)

Bible Love

Okay, so we know that God is love.  That’s a given.  He is the source of love, the Creator, and the Teacher.  That being said, let’s take a gander at:

Acts 17:30-31a (HCSB):  “Therefore, having overlooked the times of ignorance, God now commands all people everywhere to repent because He has set a day when He is going to judge the world in righteousness by the Man He has appointed.”
Mark 12:30 (HCSB): “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.  The second is: Love your neighbor as yourself.  There is no other commandment greater than these.”
John 15:13 (HCSB): “No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends.”
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (HCSB): “Love is patient, love is kind.  Love does not envy, is not boastful, is not conceited, does not act improperly, is not selfish, is not provoked, and does not keep a record of wrongs.  Love finds no joy in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth.  It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

The verse from Acts shows us something VERY important:  the judge is God and no one else.  In Mark we see that we are to love God first and foremost with all of our being and through that we can love others as much as ourselves.  Would you sit and berate yourself for lying or would you repent to God and make every effort to not do so?  Would you tell yourself that killing one person is okay because it was in the past?  Would you convince yourself that despite no effort on your part to make amend or be sincerely repentant, your constant bitterness and jealousy towards so-and-so is okay?  Treat your neighbor (who is everyone) like you would treat yourself.  (Unless you treat yourself badly.  If you treat yourself badly, we need to talk about something completely different.)  In John Jesus not only calls us His friends (how cool!), but He tells us that sacrificing our lives for our friends is the greatest love.  Chances are your sacrifice isn’t going to be death on a cross for your friends and neighbors.  But if you are unwilling to sacrifice something as simple as your comfort zone for your friend, how can you say you love him/her?  Finally in 1 Corinthians we see a full on description of how love is, what it does not do, and what it does.  Replace “love” with your name.  That should be your approach to each sinner, saved or not.  You are to be patient.  You are to be kind.  You are not to be jealous, boastful, conceited, improper, or selfish.  You are not to be provoked or to provoke.  You are not to keep a list of wrong things that others do.  You are to be joyful in the truth and not in unrighteousness.  You are to bear all things.  You are to believe all things.  You are to hope all things.  You are to endure all things.

Love Rock

So find that balance.  Tell others the commands of Jesus, what God says the fruits of the Spirit should look like, and what the Bible says.  Stating knowledge is not the same as trying to produce judgment based upon that knowledge.  Make sure you know where the line should be drawn.  You should always spread the knowledge of God and His commands, but you should never try to take His position as the Judge.  Accept one each other as the sinners that we all are, knowing that we are each going to mess up, make mistakes, and ultimately disappoint at some point.  At the same time, accept one another as the son or daughter that God made.  Be patient with one another and gentle.  Be careful to not fall into the snares of hypocrisy.  It’s taken enough testimonies and degraded them – don’t be a victim (i.e. a hypocrite).

And finally, love.  Just love.  Seek God and ask Him to show you how to love His people.  He will.

All of you – Over-lookers, Reprimanders, and everything in between – I love you, merely because Jesus loves you.  And let me tell you, oh how Jesus loves YOU!

My Love

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We Talked, But I Didn’t See His Face

Jesus Chats
Tonight as we were sitting together in the family room watching the news, my Granny turns to me and asks, “Have you raised any money yet for your trip?”  It always makes me shudder a little that she refers to the calling to be a missionary I have surrendered to as merely a “trip.”  Brushing the mental note of her using that term away, I responded with a “No.”  I’m not sure what annoyed me more, the fact that she asked or the fact that I have no funds in my support account.

Worry tried to sneak it’s vicious head into my thoughts and into my heart.

I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God called me to The World Race.  I know that I can do great things through Him while I’m on it.  I know that it is where I am suppose to be.  And I know that as of right now, I have only $150 of the $16,285 that I must have to go.  I am also acutely aware that there is no way that I, myself, can come up with that money in the 250(ish) days until I am set to leave the country.

See why I was so vulnerable to worry?

My Granny asked me another question right after my response to the first.  She asked, “Well, do you still plan to go?”  Defensively I said, “Yes, Granny.  I am still going.  Why would I not go?”   She retreated from her questions with an “I don’t know”, but we both knew what she was thinking.  She was thinking, how could I go if I didn’t have the funds?

I know that’s what she was thinking because that’s exactly what I keep thinking.  I haven’t any donors yet.  My family is in no position to say, “Here Mary Elizabeth, we’d like to give you $16,135 to complete your funding needs for the World Race.”   I have no doubt my sisters alone would gladly do that if they could.  But they can’t.  And I know that.

I keep thinking:  If I had known at graduation that this would be my life trajectory instead of law school, I could’ve gotten a job back in May, not signed a lease and had to be paying it long after I moved back out of that apartment, saved on the expense of moving (twice), and the list keeps going on.  That worry snakes it’s way deeper and deeper into my thoughts.

And then there’s Jesus.
When everyone and every situation seems to keep telling me “this is virtually impossible” or “you haven’t enough time” or “your needs are too great,” Jesus offers up the truth.

He says, “Mary Elizabeth Bailey, do I not love you?  Does My Father not love you?  Didn’t He send me to die so that you can live with Us and rest in Our love for eternity?”  Of course, I’m over here with teary eyes saying, “Yes, Jesus.”  And Jesus continues on saying to me, “Do the birds of the sky worry about being taken care of?  Does My Father leave them without food?  And the flowers that adorn the Earth and remind you of natural beauty created straight from the hand of the Father, do they worry that there is no one to clothe them day after day?”  And I answer with tears still in my eyes, “No, Jesus.  I know our Father takes care of them.  But —”   And Jesus cuts me off saying, “But what?  But you do not think He has the power to take care of you?  You do not think that when you died to sin through my blood that the Spirit within can work to take care of you?  You worry, but about what?!  The birds are fed, the flowers are clothed, and Father doesn’t even love them near as much as He loves YOU.”   Ugh, sometimes I want to cross my arms like a toddler and pout when Jesus calls me out.  He’s right.  He’s always right.   But instead, I just sit with a half-smile on my face.  So Jesus goes ahead and says, “I’ll remind you again:  I love you.  Father loves you.  You have no reason to worry.  When you worry, it’s like you are doubting Him.  We can both agree that doubting Abba Father’s love and provision is crazy, right?  Look at what I have been through.  Look at what you have been through.  Has He not provided every step of the way?  So child, stop worrying.”  I can’t help but smile now.  There’s just something about being told that I am loved and being shown the truth.  Truth sets me free, and this time I’m being freed from the chains of worry.  How dare I doubt my Father!  I tell Jesus, “I’m sorry, Jesus.  I don’t doubt Father God.  I know He’s taking care of me and that He always will.  I need Your constant reminders, so thanks!”  Jesus wipes the drying tears from my eyes and tells me, “Just seek God and His righteousness.  When you do that, not only do you have no time to worry, but also you’ll be awed with the perfect provision He gives.  Don’t worry about tomorrow — or the next day or the next day or months down the road.  Father has you taken care of.  You can’t see it, but I can.  Trust me.  I love you.”   He never ends a conversation without making sure I know that He loves me.  Ah, what a sweet Jesus!

After this chat all I can do is continue to trust in Him.  Trust in the One who made me, called me, and loves me.  Trust the One who provides for me always.  All I can (and want to) do is what Jesus told me — stop worry and seek God.

If you are knee-deep in worry and your heart is feeling overwhelmed, I encourage you to have a chat with Jesus.  I promise you, He loves you just as much as He loves me or anyone else.  He wants you to bring your worries to Him.  My chat with Jesus came from Matthew 6:25-34 tonight.  Yours can, too — if you want.

Love you, my sweet blog readers!
And so does God.
He actually loves you much, much, MUCH more than I could possibly imagine loving you.  🙂

P.S. I actually am leaving in July 2014 to go across the world (11 countries in 11 months) to bring the message, the hope, the love, and the light of Jesus to people I have yet to meet, but already have places in my heart.  I DO need $16,000+ in my support account to be fully funded.  I am confident that God will use His people (many of you reading this) to make this happen.  So, if you feel led to make a donation (which is actually tax deductible — yay!), you can go to my World Race page (http://maryelizabethbailey.theworldrace.org/) and click “Support Me” on the left side.   Even if you can’t donate, I welcome and ask you to check out my page and the World Race site in general to get to know what I have been called to.  🙂

Pageant of Mistakes: No Winners

Love the heart, not the mistakes.

Love the heart, not the mistakes.

I believe the most involuntary of all pageants would have to be the Pageant of Mistakes.  You don’t put yourself in it — other people do.  Consequently, everyone and their cousin seem to be self-appointed judges.  But don’t worry, no one ever wins.

I get so tired with people picking apart others.  “So-and-so has a bad past, don’t hang out with them.”  “What’s-their-face does things that look bad — you don’t need to be seen around them.”  “That one person doesn’t seem quite up to your standards.”   And the judgments continue, on and on.

I understand looking out for your family or best friends.  I understand wanting the best for the people you care about, which includes the best person to do life with them.   I understand all of that.  I do.  But what I don’t think most people understand is: if you expect a perfect person according to whatever fantasy “ideal list” you have created in your mind, you will always be disappointed — no matter what.  And guess what?  Your loved ones (and YOU) are imperfect, too!

I’m not saying that people should just settle for what or who comes along.  I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have a list of attributes you look for in someone.  I’m not saying that it’s wrong to give your opinion of someone who is pursuing someone you care about.

I’m simply saying that you are imperfect, your family members are imperfect, your friends are imperfect, and every other single person you meet is imperfect.  That imperfection is perfectly fine, though.  Two imperfect people can have a perfectly wonderful love story.  In fact, a lot do, just ask your grandparents.

There comes a time in life when you just have to say about the person you love, “I know what you’ve done and all the mistakes you have made, but I love you without hesitation.  You’re not perfect, and neither am I.  That’s why we’re perfect for each other — we know what it’s like to live through mistakes and we have learned our lessons.”

When you really, really love someone, you don’t notice their flaws as much.  You just simply want to love them.  That’s how Jesus looks at us.  That’s how Jesus always saw people.  He made friends with prostitutes, murderers, liars, adulterers, etc.  Guess what?  He didn’t sit there and tell others to shy away from one another because of all the sin He saw in each person He encountered.  Instead, He looked at the heart of the person and loved them more than they could imagine.

Jesus, well, He’s my role-model on how to love people.  He just so happens to be the one teaching me daily what it’s like to see someone for who they are, not necessarily what they have done.  He is the true judge of the Pageant of Mistakes, and His judgment is simply:  “I have taken the crown of thorns to cover any and all mistakes you have and will make.  You are all disqualified from the pageant of mistakes.  Instead, I invite you into My kingdom.  All of you are sons and daughters of the Most High King.  You do not belong in a pageant for a crown — you were already crowned with grace and love for your birthright.  You are royal by birth into My family.  THAT makes you perfectly Mine.  Be loving, be humble, and act like the co-heir that our Father made you.”

That’s the way I want to see the people I meet, the people I see regularly, and even the people who irritate me.  I want to seem them through the eyes of the man who loves them so much that He wore a crown of thorns and took the place of their mistakes for them.  I want to see and love like Jesus.  You should, too.

My Problem With Christians

So many people.  How many are being discipled?  How many are discipling?

So many people. How many are being discipled? How many are discipling?


First things first:  I am a Christian.  Yes, I am the believer in the God of all creation.  I love Him.  More imporantly, He loves me — always has and always will.  I believe He sent His Son Jesus to die for me on a cross.  I believe that Jesus was sinless, died on a cross for my sins, then rose again three days later and ascended to Heaven to wait for the day that He comes back to call all of His children home.  I believe this.  I believe that as a Christian there is more than just being a believer — you have to be a follower.  I pledged my life to following the commands that Jesus left for us years ago.  I give my life away daily to the One who gave His away for me.  Well, at least I try — I am human and I fail over and over. 

As a Christian, I feel it is acceptable for me to make the following statement:  I have a problem with Christians.  Yes, I have a problem with them, with us.  Here in the Bible Belt I am surrounded by “Christians.”  But really, I think I am more surrounded by believers, not followers.  My main problem with these Christians that I am around, that I read about, that I hear about is simply this:  they have no idea what discipling means.

Hear me out. 
Jesus commands us in Matthew 28 to make disciples.  Notice, however, He did not say “Go forth and make converts.”  No, Jesus tells us to make disciples.  This is simply MY opinion, but I don’t think that converts and disciples are the same thing.  Additionally, I don’t think Jesus meant for us as Christians to invest in people until they believe, welcome them to the family of God, and then focus our attention on other people who have “not turned away from their sin.”  No.  That is ridiculous.

Jesus had 12 disciples.  Twelve.  Not twelve thousand, not twelve hundred, not twenty….twelve.  He didn’t just convert His disciples into believing in Him then stop investing in them.  He ate with them;  He traveled with them;  He had long talks with them;  He cared for them;  He cared about them;  He knew all about their lives;  He wanted to know all about their lives;  He did life with them;  He invested His attention and focus in them.

That is my problem with Christians these days:  where is the investment?  I’m not saying that we as Christians do not make an effort.  It seems you cannot turn a corner without hearing about a Bible study or a gathering from some kind of campus ministry or a meal being provided from this church or that one.  Those are all great, really, they are.   BUT, what about when that event is over?  What about the rest of each person’s life outside those two hours that has been a planned event for “discipling”? 

I’m not trying to say that we should stop spreading the Gospel and converting people to knowing the love and truth that resides in the story of Christ.  I am most certainly NOT saying that.  Giving people the Truth and showing them the way to Jesus is what we’re called to do, but our calling does not stop there.  As a Christian, you should disciple one another.  You shouldn’t let your investment stop at the door of sanctuary or when the Bible study night ends.  Jesus didn’t.  If you want to be a true Christian, follow Him.  Follow Him in discipleship.  He had tweleve disciples.  He did life daily with twelve.  He knew their lives, their hopes, their dreams, their desires, their fears, their attitudes — He knew them. 

We’re not Jesus.  Twelve is a lot for us.  Jesus was sinless, thus not selfish or self-centered.  Each of us are both by nature.  So instead of twelve, why don’t you pick one or two?  One or two individuals that know and believe in the grace of God.  Teach them His commands, show them His love, encourage, rebuke, share with them.  Do life with them.

Have you moved on to “more sinful” people once you deduce your friend believes in God and loves Him?  Do you neglect those closest to you because you know “he/she and God are good”?   Stop it.  Make disciples.  Be a disciple.  Invest continually. 

This is my problem with Christians.  This is my problem with myself.  Here’s to making disciples and not converts, to investing in people and not projects….cheers!

What Are You Yelling?

Yell “Give me Jesus!”

As I was reading this morning in Luke the same story I have heard since I was a wee little girl, the part where Jesus is taken to the Sanhedrin for judging jumped out at me.

I’ve heard time and time before this same story (which I believe is 100% true) about the accusations against my Savior Jesus Christ and how Pilate found nothing to charge Him with.  I heard the whole part about Pilate giving the people a choice of releasing Jesus (who had done nothing wrong — ever) or Barabbas (a rebel and a murderer) several times as well.  It always ends the same way….the people chose Barabbas.

When we do not know the goodness of our Savior, we will choose anything over Him.  Even a murderer.  When the goodness of Christ is not believed on and felt within the depths of our souls, we will choose things and people harmful to us over salvation.

Why?

I have thought about this, and I’m just not sure.  What I have come up with is this:  we are afraid of what we have no standard to compare to.  As humans, we want to know everything and control everything.  It’s just how we are.  The people back in the day of Jesus, and people in the present-day, often reject and crucify the Son of God because they do not have anything to compare His salvation to.  Truly, it is like nothing else.  He is like noone else.  Believing and experiencing the salvation of Jesus Christ through the grace of God is giving up control to someone much, much mightier than you are.  I, for one, actually love this.

I still like to have control in life…know my work hours, plan out events, fill my planner every month of routines, schedules, and events.  I like to be in control, but I know ultimately all control over my life is in the hands of God.  After all, He is the one who saved my life.  And I love Him.  I’ve never seen Him face-to-face or anything, but I love Him.  Eternity is going to be beyond any grand event I can conjure up in this feeble mind of mine.

I write all of that to say this:  what are you releasing into your life instead of Jesus?  What, or who, have you chose over your Savior?  For me, before I knew God I believe I had chosen two things:  fear and myself.  I let myself believe that I didn’t need God because I was a “good” kid and I knew all about Him…wasn’t that enough?   I let myself be afraid to admit that I needed and wanted Jesus because that would mean I was wrong, a bad person — right?   No.  The fear was misplaced and my view of my “goodness” was skewed.  We are never ‘good enough’ on our own.  We need the perfection of Jesus to put goodness into us.  But it does no good to just read about it…you have to experience it.

Those people in Jesus’ day knew all about Him.  They knew the miracles He had been performing.  They knew His teachings.  They saw His healing in action.  But, those who hadn’t believed in His goodness and experienced it themselves were the ones yelling “Give us Barabbas!  Give us the murderer!”

I could tell you all day about the goodness of my Savior — Jesus Christ.  I could tell you all day about what He means to me (i.e. everything).  I could tell you all day, but it means nothing if you don’t experience Him.

So, experience Him.  Pray.  Believe.  Invite Him.  Have faith.  When you do all of those things, you’ll be yelling “Give me Jesus!   Give me salvation!”  You will fall in love with not just His goodness, but with all of Him.  Don’t worry though, it’s a beautiful kind of love, because He already loves you (even if you’ve been yelling for Barabbas).  Love Him back.