The Hard Road from Church to the Kingdom of God, Part 3 (The Way of Love)

A Way to Live

Jesus taught the way of love. 

He told stories. At the center of these stories was a God of love and people in need of love. Jesus’ stories did not focus on belief but on behavior.

Jesus had only two rules for life:

  1. Love God.
  2. Love your neighbor. 

He said if you did this, you would automatically get everything else right. 

Following Jesus is the way of love.

What Is Love?

Love is the superpower we all possess. It is faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Love will save the world.

Love is acceptance.

In Jesus’ day, to sit around the table and eat with someone conveyed acceptance. Jesus was not picky about who he ate with. He ate with tax gatherers, prostitutes, religious leaders, lepers, and Samaritans. He would eat with anyone. He would eat with you.

People were scandalized.

“This man welcomes sinners and eats with them!” (Luke 15:2)

Jesus told a story about a father who welcomed his prodigal son back to the table. He said that is how God treats screw-ups.

Jesus didn’t see lines between people. He treated a Roman Centurion, a synagogue official, a Samaritan woman, a tax collector, and a Pharisee all the same. He loved them all. 

But there was one point of conflict.

Jesus’ Conflict

In Jesus’ day, as in ours, there are those who reject others on the grounds of religion, social status, gender, ethnicity, and morality.

If you are grossed out by the people who sit at God’s table you will not find a seat there.

This is why Jesus insisted on the necessity of forgiveness. It’s also why he had such harsh words for the religion-makers of his day. They said God drew lines that gave them an inside track. They even said God rejected certain people. This made Jesus angry.

Love and hate are like light and darkness. They cannot coexist. If you reject a single person, you banish yourself to outer darkness. This is not because God is angry. It is because God is love.

When you fail to love, you experience the pain of being separated. A seat will always remain at God’s table for you. God will leave the light on for you.

Eventually, you’ll come home. No one can live outside forever. But why wait?

The Way of Love

The life Jesus taught can be summarized by three truths. 

  1. God is love
  2. Life is growth
  3. Everyone is family

These are three streams, flowing from the heart of God to you and through you.

The Way of Love

  • Because God is love, you love God.
  • Because life is growth, you love life.
  • Because everyone is family, you love your neighbor. 

The way of love is not a philosophy or a religion. It is a way to live. Behavior is primary. Belief is secondary. Love will guide the way to truth. 

Here is a simple way to get started. Focus for a week on each statement. After three weeks, combine them. 

Eventually you will go much further than these first steps. You will never outgrow them.

Week #1 God is Love—I Love God!

Every day, make the first words out of you mouth, “I love you.” Say this out loud before you get out of bed. 

You will be amazed at what three simply words, expressed honestly, will do. 

Don’t worry if you don’t feel anything at first. It’s okay if you are mad at God. It’s okay if you’re not even convinced there is a God. Just say the words, as genuinely as you can.

“I love you.”

You may find that these words lead to further discussion.

“Are you really up there?”

“Why aren’t you taking care of me?”

“Why is life so painful and meaningless?”

Go ahead and have those conversations with God—or with the ceiling if that’s all you can manage to believe in.

When you are finished, say the words again. 

“I love you.”

The way of love is not an answer life’s mysteries. It is the Presence of God in the mystery. 

Just say the words. The practice comes first, then the feelings. If you wait for the feelings you will never begin.

As you go through the day, say “I love you” as often as you can remember.

Do this for seven days. You will be surprised by what happens. 

Week #2 Life is Growth—I Love Life!

Before you get out of bed, thank God for one thing, then tell God you love your life. 

“Thank you for _________. I love my life!”

Be sure to give thanks for one new thing every day. This will expand your appreciation of God’s goodness. After thanking God, add the statement:

“I love my life.”

You may choke on those words. Maybe your life stinks. Maybe it’s so bad you wish it was over. How can you love a life filled with tragedy? When you’ve made such a colossal mess of it? When people you love are in pain?

Suppose I give you a book and tell you it is a good one. You open it up to page 152 and read. Yikes! Page 152 is nothing but heartache and despair. You slam the book shut and hand it back to me. “That’s a lousy book!” you say. 

How do you know? You have only read one page.

Your life is one page. Pain and suffering are real. Failure is real. Loving your life doesn’t mean plastering on a dopey grin on evil. It means trusting that in ways you cannot see, God is always working for good. 

The way of love is not an answer to the question “Why?” It is the presence of God in the mystery.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. For Thou art with me. (Psalm 23:4)

You don’t have the perspective to know what is good and bad. You must trust that in all things, God is working for good. That’s why you can love your life. Not because of what you see, but because of the God of love, at work on every page to bring every lost child home.

Before you get out of bed, thank God for one thing, then tell God you love your life. 

“Thank you for _________. I love my life!”

Soon you’ll learn to embrace each day as a gift instead of dreading it like an obstacle course.

Week #3. Everyone is Family—I Love My Neighbor

Make eye contact with the first person you meet today. Smile, and say hello. 

This may be the person who shares your bed. Maybe it will be a roommate. Perhaps the first person you see when you step outside. Whoever it is, make eye contact and smile. Greet them.

They may avoid your glance. They may scowl. They may be embarrassed. No matter. Just smile. 

It may not seem like much, but it is. People walk around with a sense of alienation. The world can be a cold place. The focus is competition, not acceptance. You don’t smile at your opponent. You defeat him.

After you’ve met your first person, do the same with the second and the third and the fourth… You get the point. 

Don’t be creepy and weird about it. Just convey genuine acceptance to every person you meet, from your spouse lying in bed with you to the cashier at the store. Eye contact and a smile is a great place to start. It matters more than you think.

If you want to work on your own heart as you do this, add a prayer. Ask God to fill the person with love as you smile and greet her. You will like what happens in your own heart. You’ll feel love. You’ll feel God. 

When we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. (1 John 4:12)

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