The Gospel lesson and sermon in church this past Sunday touched on some things that have been running through my mind lately, especially after reading a blog post that was directed at one group of people in particular. The title of that post seemed to serve no other purpose than to belittle the group that they had a difference of opinion with.
The Gospel text was from John 13, where Jesus is instructing his disciples, and gave them a new commandment. Verses 34-35 say, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
The sermon went on to explain that this means we are to love our neighbors. Douglas John Hall of Canada’s McGill University states: “It may be good enough, legally and politically, but it is not good enough for the one who did not say, ‘Tolerate your neighbor’, but ‘love your neighbor.” Uff da! To love someone as Jesus has loved me is not easy. That would mean an unconditional love. No judging, no scoffing, no name calling…unconditional.
We live in an age where, at any given moment, we are able to communicate with our fellow man – our neighbors – anywhere around the world. How are we supposed to show this love to neighbors we’ve never met in person? As our speaker, Jason Swenson, mentioned: “Biblical love is not all hearts and flowers, but actions and deeds.”
Actions and deeds… The beauty of living in this cyber age, is the ability to reach out and show our love through our actions, which in most cases, is conveyed through words. Unconditional love through words…hmm.
I did a little searching on the internet for quotes or thoughts about unconditional love, and the power of words. Besides a myriad of Bible verses, I found a ton of quotes by authors, philosophers, statesmen, and religious figures. One of the quotes that stood out to me was by an unknown author who said, “Let people march to their own beat of the drum and feel safe to be real around us. That’s what unconditional love is all about – being an encourager of people’s passions, loves, and dreams, even if you may disagree with them.” Look at the last part of the sentence again…”being an encourager of people’s passions, loves, and dreams, even if you may disagree with them.”
When we write blogs, Facebook posts, Tweets, or whatever…are we being encouragers or discouragers. Are we willing to show our love for our neighbor in the words we choose? Another unknown author asked, “If someone were to pay you 10 cents for every kind word you ever spoke and collect from you 5 cents for every unkind word, would you be rich or poor?”
It is so easy for us to hide behind the anonymity of user names on forums, to hide behind our job titles, or educational titles. We feel we can type whatever we want, and it won’t matter because we are right, or we are smarter, or they need to be educated. But those of us who are followers of Jesus, can we really say whatever we want without regard to how our words may affect another person?
I will admit, there are times when I have not shown love towards a neighbor…those are the times when I must ask forgiveness for my thoughts, and my words spoken in anger. It took being called out by my daughter, Laura, in a college paper to make me really look at how the words coming out of my head affect other people. That’s when you realize how true Psalm 16:24 is: “Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.”
Loving our neighbors does not mean that we all have to think the same thing, shop at the same store, or belong to the same political party. We can have lively discussions, and still show love. We can disagree about how to manage our businesses, and still show love. The key is in our actions and our words. Weigh your words carefully before you post something online. Leave out the inflammatory adjectives that are there mostly for spite. Ask yourself, am I building up the people around me, or am I tearing them down?
Ephesians 4:29 “Do not use harmful words, but only helpful words, the kind that build up and provide what is needed, so that what you say will do good to those who hear you.”