I was at Grace UMC in Keyser last week and they had these stained glass windows on the end of a room. Before I taint your view, look at the picture. What do you see? Just a stained glass window? Or do you see something within the window? All I could see was a cat face. Can you see it? The eyes are the red areas and the mouth is below the wooden cross piece. I cannot look at this without seeing a cat face. At least it looks like a happy cat. I cannot imagine the person who did the window meant for me to see a cat face, but I could be wrong. Others who look at it will not see the face of a cat, but will simply see a stained glass window. Everyone interprets everything from their own perspective.
I am leading you somewhere important now. I see the word love thrown around a lot in our society and on the internet. I see pastor friends write things like, “Our job is not to judge. Our job is to love.” I wholeheartedly agree with that. The Bible tells us to love God and love our neighbor. I cannot fathom anyone who calls themselves a Christian debating that we are to love. Where the debate comes in is how we define love.
There is so much I could write here, but I know people will not read lengthy posts. Going back to the window, anyone can see whatever they see and that is OK. I can see a cat and you can see parachutes. It is art and it is open to interpretation. But when it comes to the Biblical command to love, the question is not, “What does love mean to you?” The question is, “What does God mean when He says to love?” It is not open to our interpretation. And it does matter. It has eternal consequences.
When we go to Haiti and hand out rice and beans, is that loving? Most people would say it is. But, if I have these “Words of Life”, this truth that leads to eternal life:
that there is a God who died for your sins, and if you will repent and turn from your sin and receive the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, then He will forgive you of your sins and create in you a clean heart, and He will send His Spirit to reside in you, and will eventually receive you into heaven when this life is over.
If I give them rice and beans and tell them to be well, or even tell them that God loves them and I leave it at that (not sharing those words from above), I would argue that is the most unloving thing I could ever do. You see, because I believe the Bible teaches the above words to be true, it is love that compels me to call people to turn from their sin and be saved. And if they will not receive that offer, I must still show them kindness, no matter how offended they are by those words and no matter how they then see me. And that is surely what God means when He says to love our neighbor.