I love to love. The feeling I get when that deep seated emotion rises to the surface of my being and encapsulates me in its powerful, unharnessed wave, pulling me in and pushing me out. It lingers, saturating the shoreline for a brief moment before it is sucked back in and its strength renewed. Love is powerful. It has a source. It has boundaries, and it can be extinguished. Without a doubt, love is a complicated thing.
Love, like beauty, is found (and defined) within the eye of the beholder. Meaning, it looks, feels, and manifests itself differently from one person to the next. This isn’t bad, wrong, or unhealthy, but it should be noted. And perhaps we have noted such when we love an abusive parent from a distance while sacrificing for the homeless. Romantic love, friendship love, God’s love, and all the loves in between. The spectrum of love is vast.
Having been raised in the Church, I’ve seen the pendulum called “love” swing from angry protests, boycotting, shunning those different than “us,” whether in race, class, sexuality, or moral behavior to loving everyone, accepting the beautiful array of differences found within the human race. The Church seems to making a concentrated effort to love bigger and broader—to love like Jesus—and, as a woman who was sneered and jeered as a murderer as I walked shame-filled out of an abortion clinic through the churches anti-abortion protest, I love this more than words will allow me to express. We all need love and regardless of what we’ve done or who we are— we are worthy of love.
We are worthy of love first and foremost because God created us in His image (Gen 1:27). And if you are a “Christ-Follower,” you may have heard that when He gazes upon us, He sees His Son—His righteousness. I love the imagery found in Isaiah 61:10, where the writer testifies that because he has professed his belief in Christ that he is clothed in Christ’s robe of righteousness (This may sound weird, confusing, abstract; stay with me—I’ll cover this in a sec). Christ’s robe, not ours. Christ’s work, not ours. Christ’s sacrifice, not ours. Literally, when Christ sees us, He sees His reflection, not our shame, guilt, or sin.
I can’t help but to think of an old story that I happened across not so long ago and although I am not sure is fact or fiction, I fell in love with all the same. One day, a gentleman named Mr. Weaver happened across a homeless man, who in his tattered rags sat leaning up against an ally wall looking rather downcast. He gave a hearty “hello” and kept walking. Day after day, Mr. Weaver walked by the man on his way to work and slowly befriended him. One day, He said, “Friend, if you will come home with me, I will give you a suit of new clothes.” The man followed him home, shared a meal with him, showered, and returned to his room find the suit Mr. Weaver had been wearing. He put it on, walked downstairs, and asked, “Well, how do I look?” Mr. Weaver replied, “ You look very respectable” to which the man retorted, “Oh yes. It is a remarkable suit, your best, but it is not me.” So it is with us. Christ meets us covered in rags of filth and covers us with His best robe; His robe of righteousness. When we ask Him, “How do I look?,” He replies in a near whisper, “Beautiful, Beloved—breathtaking. There isn’t a blemish in thee.” We’re quick to say, “But…it’s not really me, it is Your righteousness, it is Your beauty.” And He smiles.
A feel good story, right? You can see why I love it, I’m sure. But imagine if Mr. Weaver had not befriended the homeless man and offered him his best suit. What if he had merely said his morning hellos, maybe tossed him a coin or two as he walked by—acknowledging him, accepting him to some degree, but did not offer him his best suit? Here’s where I am going with this: it is one thing to say we love and accept all people, but if we are not also leading them to the greatest love, to where they too can don the robe of righteousness are we really loving them?
I love that the Church (Capital “C”) appears to be more inclusive of those who in the past were alienated, but I wonder if we’re truly loving others or merely being tolerant. I think the difference is whether we share the robe graciously given to us or not.