I heard the best phrase earlier this year. A guest speaker at my sister’s church was talking about that famous evangelical phrase, “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” The speaker went on to congratulate Christians everywhere, himself included, because we are so good at that phrase. Especially the second part. We’re so good at the second part, in fact, that we really don’t get around to the first.
His suggestion was to give up the hate. Just try it. For like a month or something. “Love irresponsibly,” he said.
How much do I love that phrase? Very. I keep trying to think of ways to apply it. It’s a tough one for Christians, because – well – besides the fact that it sounds like a slogan for teen pregnancy – it also flies right in the face of our fear that we could actually love someone right into hell. Do you know this about us, Person we judge? We’re afraid that if we don’t condemn you now, we condemn you forever. And as for our own self-righteousness – and, Lordy, do we have some – it’s not only that we think we can earn our way to heaven (although, I’m afraid that’s in there), it’s also that we have believed our own purity is the best way to reflect Him. First Corinthians 13, aside. (“If I speak God’s word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.”)
I like the phrase love irresponsibly because it made me question that fear I used to have. It made me wonder, if I believe I could love someone into hell, did I really understand what Love is?
I don’t have this problem, for instance, with my children. They can lie right to my face, the little devils, and moments later I want to wrap them in my arms and hold them ’til they smell like my shampoo. I adore them. I actually have total responsibility for their health, their understanding of right and wrong, and their happiness. Actual responsibility. It’s in the contract you sign right next to their birth certificate. I solemnly swear to feed them broccoli, hold their hand to cross the street, and apologize profusely if they point out obesity in the grocery store. And yet I love them first and foremost without any thought for that other stuff. It’s why I give them cookies at bedtime and let them play football in the yard just five more minutes before they start their homework and strap ’em into mud boots and swimming trunks so they can treat the puddles like they were meant to be treated.
You know, Mom and Dad always used to teach people that disciplining your children is a greater love than spoiling them because it requires a greater denial of self (not to mention the fact that it shows a much greater love for the whole of society upon whom you’ll eventually inflict your children). That is certainly true. But it’s not the willing-to-discipline love that will motivate me when they make decisions I would not have made for them. It’s the cookies-at-bedtime love.
I don’t know, I just think this is the kind of love that would be worth considering with other humans on the planet as well. I don’t know for sure what it looks like. But I’m pretty sure I’ve decided it’s the way to be.
And now I’ve put it out there. I’ve taken another guy’s words, packed it with my own emotions and agendas and put it out there for the world. So go ahead, lay it on me. What do you think about it?