My wife and I are participating in a bible study home group. I’m having a hard time getting motivated into the topic, though. You see, we’re studying a series entitled, “The Forty Days of Love” facilitated via video by Pastor Rick Warren and based on the book, “The Relationship Principles of Jesus” written by Tom Holladay. The book spells it out that our model for how to love the people around us is shown in how Jesus loved the people around Him.
Okay, I get that. No problem there.
But it keeps hammering home how God, through Jesus, showed His love to everybody, and how He asks us to do the same.
See, that’s my problem.
If by “showed His love to everybody” the writer means that through Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice on the cross He died for all people’s sin everywhere for all time then yeah, I can understand that. But that’s a bit of a lofty goal for us mere mortals to undertake . . . the whole laying down our life for both our friends and enemies alike.
But if the writer meant “showed His love to everybody” in that Jesus was the ultimate example of how to show love then there’s something I’m missing.
If you were poor, afflicted, a child, a disciple, and so on, then yes, I see how Jesus was a definite example to be emulated. Even if you were but a mere face in one of the many crowds that yearned to hear the words spoken by this Messiah, I can see the connection. But what of the Pharisees?
How can calling an entire group of what were at the time highly influential men within the Jewish society a “brood of vipers” and “hypocrites” in any way construed as love? How is overturning the tables of the moneychangers in the temple showing love? I could see that Jesus’ anger towards these people was borne out of their displays of pompous superiority towards the rest of society, or in their taking advantage of the very poor and less fortunate that Jesus cared for so deeply. But I still don’t see how those examples is showing love to them.
According to this study, I’m to show love to everyone I come in contact with. Not out-and-out affection, but grace, acceptance (a topic I’ll dive into more deeply later), and kindness.
I hate to keep bringing this up, but I work in retail, and there are some definite Pharisees in that lot if I’ve ever seen any. Ask anyone who has spent any time in the restaurant or retail game about that customer who takes the term “service” literally. Who makes no bones about the fact that you’re presence is a nuisance even though you are trying to help them; and the fact that they need your help at all is yet another annoyance. To this day, my wife and I still talk about the man we encountered at a wine tasting event that made us literally feel like fourth-class citizens. If you’ve ever seen “Caddyshack” he was the Ted Danson character . . . to a tee (no pun intended). “Some people just don’t belloooonnngg.” I thought people like that only ever existed in movies!
How do I show love to that?
Maybe it’s just the biblical examples my wife and I were reading, but quite often within His encounters with the “Pharisees and the teachers of the law”, Jesus was more acerbic than loving. For example . . .
Luke 20: 1 One day as Jesus was teaching the people in the temple courts and proclaiming the good news, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, together with the elders, came up to him. 2 “Tell us by what authority you are doing these things,” they said. “Who gave you this authority?”
3 He replied, “I will also ask you a question. Tell me: 4 John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or of human origin?”
5 They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Why didn’t you believe him?’ 6 But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ all the people will stone us, because they are persuaded that John was a prophet.”
7 So they answered, “We don’t know where it was from.”
8 Jesus said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”
This example, at least to me, doesn’t show making an effort towards grace, acceptance or kindness. He certainly doesn’t answer their question. He, in essence, tells them to go to . . . Sheol:
One of the participants in our group brought up that this may be an example of Christ showing love towards these people the way a parent, at times, shows love towards their children through discipline. Jesus’ intent was towards love, but his actions were towards discipline and correction; “Tough love” so to speak. Yet, also brought up was that along with the discipline applied to a child often comes a later time of explanation, teaching, and understanding. If such a time were afforded to Jesus and the Pharisees, it’s not revealed within scripture. One is left to assume that Jesus opens up the verbal can of smackdown on these Pharisees, and simply walks away.
There is for sure no small amount of peace that comes from the knowledge and example of Christ; a peace that includes no small amount of confidence and self-respect. Being a Christian does not equate to being walked over, but there may involve a certain amount of walking away.
Maybe too, “showing love” for these types of people involves occasionally speaking up, in a loving way of course, that their actions or words are insensitive and unnecessary. The people you speak to won’t like it of course, but maybe, just maybe, they’ll think twice about their next encounter with a “server”.
Unfortunately, I’m still not above telling them to go to . . . Sheol.