Loving others sounds like common sense, right? Why is this even an issue? I constantly witness people ripping others down for no good reason. As I Christian, I am appalled at my brothers and sister. We are supposed to be exhibiting Christ’s love for the world to see, yet we get so caught up in the nit-picky details that we deter others from the goodness and grace of Christ.
I went to high school in a relatively liberal area of the country in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Because I was a Christian, people assumed I did not accept the people around me. Being part of the theater department could not have put me more at odds with my surrounding peers. According to them, I needed to accept each person and accept their sin. I did not know how to defend myself, so I just gave in. I started to not only accept their sin but defend it. Even though my peers swore by tolerance, they failed to tolerate me: a Christian girl who just wanted to love and be loved. The one who is thought to have bullied others by having convictions was in turn bullied for being raised with those values.
Fast-forward a little bit to college. I chose to go to a small Christian school in Indiana. Let me tell you—I had less culture shock visiting a foreign country than living in the Midwest. I went from being the ultra-conservative of my high school friends to the crazy liberal of my college friends. I was suddenly surrounded by those who blatantly spoke down on those different from them and said unkind words clearly out of ignorance. Again I found myself the odd man out. It was rather discouraging to see those who exhibit incredible love to floor-mates and friends speak about non-Christians in such a negative way.
After experiencing both sides as well as listening to both with an open ear, I believe loving others is comprised of parts from both sides. Christians are called to love all people no matter where they are in life. Jesus ate with, talked to, and preached to sinners of all walks of life. He was turned off from people because of what they’ve done, for he loved people for who they are. We cannot judge those who have not made the commitment to follow Christ; in fact, it is not anyone’s place to judge another being. Christianity has various rules we should follow, but those only apply to Christians. We cannot hold those who do not have a relationship with Christ to the same standard as our sibling in Christ. I hope those who start a relationship with Christ are motivated to run from sin, but we all need the occasional reminder to step back on the path. We need people to call us out—an accountability partner of sorts.
When we love others, we need to meet them where they are and try to leave them in a better place than where they started. I have often been the person that my friends go to for advice—and I love it! It is so incredible to be trusted with another person’s hopes and fears. I have even had those who don’t know me very well confide in me. I don’t think it has to do with the type of advice I give or how great my hugs are. I think it has to do with how I love people. Let’s face it: people go through crap all the time, so why are we still surprised by it? [As the title of my blog says, nothing is strange.] I choose to focus on the person going through the hard time (whether or not they brought it on themselves). Also, be honest. Your friend came to you because they trust you and what you have to say. That doesn’t mean you have to be a jerk when being honest, but you owe them the truth. Their reaction is entirely their problem. I encourage you to stick to your guns! It takes a lot of strength to tell someone you love the truth, so don’t back down.
Loving others comes down to building relationships. Be open to getting to know the people around you. Listen to what they have to say. Just as experiences shape you, let yourself be open to letting them change you. You are never done learning and growing as an individual, so keep an open yet discerning mind.