Friday, February 5, 2010

Love...Just Do It!

by Gina Welborn

Sometimes I say/blog things then I have a terrible feeling they're going to get me excommunicated. And I'm not even Catholic. Oh well, here goes...

I went to a ladies' fellowship at church last week where the speaker shared about love. Apparently Christians are supposed to "just do it." You know, LOVE OTHERS. Well, while I agreed with the gist of the talk, too many times I wanted to stand up and say, "Loving others is far harder than just doing it." Seriously.

If that weren't case, then why the heck is hypocrisy the #1 thing Christians are known for instead of love? (Yes, sometimes even I get annoyed at my points of arguments and occasional use of an almost-curse word.)

When I was in 8th grade, my Sunday School teacher came back from a conference where she learned about different spiritual gifts. She proceeded to tell us ours based on what she saw in our lives. I looked at her quite unimpressed and said, "Hey , if God wants me to know what my spiritual gift is, He'll tell me not you." She smiled to appease me I'm sure.

Needless to say, I didn't care for the spiritual gift I'd been designated as to having. What the world needs now is love, sweet love, so I decided love (the gift of compassion) was the best one to have. After all, didn't Paul of Tarsas write, "What if I speak in the most elegant languages of people or in the exotic languages of the heavenly messengers, but I live without love? Well then, anything I say is like the clanging of brass or crashing cymbal." (The Voice, Thomas Nelson)

In my childish determination to obtain the spiritual gift of compassion (love), I took spiritual gift analysis tests after tests. Got the same what-I-thought-was boring gift every time. Being one not easily dismayed, I decided to rig the test to get the desired results so I could say, "Look at that score, baby! I'm a lover not a fighter." Only problem is I couldn't even rig the gift into prominance. Why? Because, dang it, LOVING OTHERS IS FAR HARDER THAN RIGGING A TEST. Neither can you "just do it."

Listen, you can't force someone to love you anymore than you can force yourself to love others.

It's not that I was/am incapable of loving. I love my husband and our five kids. Love the dog (not the cat). Love my parents, sisters, sister-in-law. Love my friends. Love Laurie Alice Eakes even though she can sometimes be so utterly mean to me when she critiques my writing and tells me the red ink is for my own good. I even love the baristas at Starbucks who without complaint kindly divide my venti frappachino into two tall fraps while only charging me the venti price.

Just between the two of us, one person I've struggled in the last 16 years to love is my mother-in-law (MIL). Who among us can't agree? Not that you don't love my MIL but that you don't love yours. I can hear you thinking, "Gina, this is a public forum, anyone can read this so don't be so open and honest." Why not? I'm not the only person on this earth who has/had a loving-another-person problem.

Maybe it's not your MIL whom you struggle to love. Maybe it's your sexist boss, liberal wacko fem-nazi neighbor, bath-avoiding co-worker, unsaved husband, whiney child(ren), Cousin Eddie, stupid parent(s), snide ex-whatever, or even that barista at Starbucks who puts some type of crack in your coffee that makes you continually go back for more. We ALL have someone in our lives who drive us insane. Grrrr.

Loving people we like is easy. Loving people we don't like, who annoy us, who hurt or abuse us is near impossible.

For years my hubby would say, "Gina, you don't have to like Mom. You just have to love her." Whatever. Platititudes are platitudes 'cause the platitude don't change any attitude. Sadly, this "you don't have to like 'em but you do have to love 'em" platitude is what I'd heard in church for 30+ years. I think it's got to be one of the stupidest statements ever. As long as you despise/dislike/can't stand the person, you'll never be able to truly love him.

In his book BLUE LIKE JAZZ, Donald Miller expressed it this way:

"The problem with Christian community was that we had ethics, we had rules and laws and principles to judge each other against. There was love in the Christian community, but it was a conditional love. Sure, we called it unconditional, but it wasn't....If [people] were bad and rich, they were called evil. If they were bad and poor, they were charity. Christianity was always right; we were always looking down on everybody else."

Not pleasant to hear is it, eh? Even I, at this moment, want to defend the Christian community. Oh sure some people are like that but not everyone. Don't throw out the whole bushel because of one or two rotten fruit.

Donald Miller went on to write: "The problem with Christian community is that we think of love as a commodity....The church used love like money. With love, we withheld affirmation from the people who did not agree with us, but we lavishly financed the ones who did."

As I read that, I realized I was withholding love for my MIL in hopes that she'd become who I wanted her to be--in other words, to become worthy of my love. My love for her was conditional. If she made me happy, I loved her. If she didn't, I withheld. God's love isn't conditional. God has never withheld His love from me to teach me a lesson or to make me become who He wanted me to be. I've always considering my flaws--while annoying in others--to be adorable in myself, but at that moment of truth of realizing how conditional my love was, I knew exactly how Job felt when he said, "I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes."

My MIL didn't need to change. I did. Only through repentance did I finally feel free to love. And not just my MIL. Anyone. Everyone. In fact, once I changed, I realized what an amazing woman my MIL is, despite our differences. I am blessed to have her in my life.

Relationships, as Miller wrote, are pretty simple: Nobody will listen to you unless they sense that you like them.

Key words there are UNLESS THEY SENSE. You can say you like them, but if they don't sense acceptance from you, sweetheart, your words are clanging brass.

Once you learn you're free to love, you'll realize it's NOT your freakin' responsibility to judge, discipline, or change another person. That's God's job. Do you hear me, THAT'S GOD'S JOB. But how much easier--no, safer--is it to not associate with the liberal fem-nazi, the girl with the nose ring and tattoos covering her entire left arm, the gay co-worker who enjoys sharing his weekend exploits, the Inkwell blogger who often says freakin'/heck/dang, or the mother-in-law who finds fault in everything you do and has no shame in daily reminding you (mine never did that).

Haven't you been warned at church to stay away from the world? From the sinful people in the world? From the sinful people in the public school system? Protect your children. Evil company corrupts good character. Follow the commandments, tithe your 10%, don't miss Sunday church services, don't drink wine or watch anything on NBC, read your Bible every day, do those things that show you're a good Christian.

Somewhere in following all those religious rules and regulations, we lost what really matters to God. Our hearts. Loving people regardless of their _______ and regardless of how they hurt us.

"Two thousand years ago God started a revolt against the religion He started. So don't ever put it past God to cause a groundswell movement against churches and Christian institutions that bear His name. If He was willing to turn Judaism upside down, don't think for a moment our institutions are safe from a divine revolt. I'm convinced that even now there are multitudes of followers of Jesus Christ who are sick and tired of the church playing games and playing down the call of God. My travels only confirm that the murmurings of a revolution are everywhere. I am convinced that there is an uprising in the works and that no one less than God is behind it." ~Erwin McManus

Just as the church is often guilty today, a vast majority of religious leaders in Jesus' time put all their stock in following the rules, rituals, traditions, Commandments, programs, and expectations AND they often forgot to put love first. I know people in the church who've made judging others an artform. (I've been guilty as well.) Try wearing an Adidas athletic suit to church on Sunday morning and see how many "how tacky/inappropriate of her" looks you get. Of course the test has greater significance if you're married to one of the pastors.

Jesus said, "This is what our Scriptures come to teach: in everything, in every circumstance, do to others as you would have them do to you." (Matthew 7: 12)

You want to be listened to...listen to others.
You want to be accepted unconditionally...accept others unconditionally.
You want to be others.

And by "others" I don't just mean the people who are easy to like. Stop judging others and holding them up to your standards of righteousness. So what if someone wears shorts to church on Sunday morning. So what if someone enjoys a glass of wine on occasion. So what if someone lets loose a profanity or almost profanity. So what if someone doesn't discipline his children. So what if someone decorates her house differently than you, doesn't read the types of books you do, enjoys watching cheesy daytime talk-shows, thinks the King James Version of the Bible is the only God-ordained one, or even insists AVATAR is new-age, environmentalist propaganda. So what...

In his book THE END OF RELIGION, Bruxy Cavey wrote, "Jesus called His followers to live by a higher standard, the way of love instead of the way of the law. And to drive home His point, He had to break the rules over and over again." Amen!

Sometimes, though, we can't love others because we don't love ourselves. After all, we've been taught that love of self is wrong, prideful, arrogant. Loving self means we're not humble. You can't be a good Christian if you're not humble. So while we know it's wrong to belittle, criticize, devalue other people, we're completely fine with doing it to ourselves. I always mess up. I'm not smart. I'm not worthy to be loved by anyone, not even God. Ever said, "This may sound stupid to you, but I think...."? Why give people permission ahead of time to think your opinion/words/wonderings are stupid. Stop belittling yourself.

If this is you, start speaking truth over yourself. I personally like "I am fearfully and wonderfully made." Or sing the words to David Cowder's song, Everything Glorious. "The day is brighter here with You, the night is lighter than its hue, would lead me to believe, which leads me to believe You make everything glorious, You make everything glorious, You make everything glorious, And I am Yours. What does that make me?" Thank God for the love He freely gives to you and learn to receive God's love so you can give love to yourself.

Listen, when you can't receive love, you will never be able to give love to those you like or to those you don't like. And until you are able to love freely, you will never really live.

"The Lord loves you when you feel you are unlovable. He loves you when others choose not to. He loves you with an everlasting love (Jer 31: 3). And it's His nature to call the unloved to Himself and make them loved (Rom. 9:25)." ~Frank Viola, FROM ETERNITY TO HERE: Rediscovering the Ageless Purpose of God

"After all falls apart, He repairs He repairs. Oh the Glory of it all is: He came here for the rescue of us all that we may live for the glory of it all. Oh He is here for redemption from the fall that we may live for the glory of it all." ~David Crowder Band, For the Glory of it All

God gave us the love we needed so we could give the love we need to give. We are meant to break free of the sin that ensnares us, to live like there is no tomorrow, to live a life to be followed. But even more so, we are created and called to...

Love Extravagantly.

"Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples." (NLT)

  • Have you ever struggled with loving someone? Without naming names, what did you do to change the relationship or has nothing changed?

  • Is there a line between loving people and approving of their sin?

  • What steps do you feel you need to take to be free of your coffee addiction?

  • Why have you never listened to a David Crowder CD?

  • Have you thought of a good mash up for our March Mashness theme? (For more information, see footer. I shall blog on blenders and jazz music.)
To hear MercyMe's song "Goodbye Ordinary," click here or to hear David Crowder Band's song, "Everything Glorious," click here or here.


  1. So the right thing to say here is that I love you, Gina, despite you telling the world I'm mean. Meh!

    OK, Jesus told us to love our neighbor as ourselves. Hey, if we don't love ourselves, how can we love our neighbors? I've had to work on that one.
    I'm probably the hardest person I've ever had to love.
    But then, I'm mean, so it's understandable.

  2. I'm starting to get the love yourself and love others unconditionally. It has come with age and hard lessons.

    Gina, I especially want to respond to your question about being in the world but not of it. This is a difficult one to stay on top of. Like a fence. How close do you get, how far away do you stay? Is sin catching? No. Or is it? Definitely one of the reasons that Christian are seen as hypocrites. We need some help with this one.

    Oh, And Laurie Alice. You got off easy. Gina's mother-in-law is 'holding on line #2'

  3. Gina, looove this post. Utter honesty and psuedo swear words. What a great way to start the day :)

    Honestly from me, I was sort of dreading this post. Love - just do it. That's a hard one for me, not because I don't have self-control, but forcing love feels so disingenuous to me. I feel as if I lack integrity if I try to fake love, and I think (despite my Oscar award-winning acting skills) sometimes others sense it too.

    How much better to learn to truly love. To let go of the things that keep us from loving. To deal with our hearts on a deep level.

    The hardest people for me to love are religious, judgemental Christians. But I'm getting better at it. Each person from the most sinful to the most snotty is a special creature made in God's image. As we begin to see God in them we can begin to love them as we truly should.

  4. Laurie, I only said you were mean to me. :-) And even then, it's only when you are helping me learn to write better. My problem is I want to write well the first time. Drat.

    Still don't ever stop being mean to me when you critique my writing. I value your opinion. :-)

  5. Laurie, I only said you were mean to me. :-) And even then, it's only when you are helping me learn to write better. My problem is I want to write well the first time. Drat.

    Still don't ever stop being mean to me when you critique my writing. I value your opinion. :-)

  6. I'll tackle question 2. I do think there is a line between loving people and approving sin. If we love people it is impossible to approve of sin. Because sin destroys, it tears down and spoils life for that person. If we love them then we want what is best for them. The best things in life are pure and good and just and holy. So to love them you must hate the sin that would tear them apart. It's a little circular but I think the concept holds water.

    Oh and not to sound self-righteous or anything but I don't have a coffee addiction. Just please don't ask me about chai.

  7. Debra, learning to love others has been an utterly painful process. Think of how many years I lost because I'd been trying to fake love for my MIL. It's not that I didn't every have pleasant moments with her 'cause I did. Still I always felt an underlying tension.

    Just as I'd thought, "she doesn't like me so I'm not going to listen to her," my MIL had been thinking the same thing.

    And loving unconditionally, unjudgmentally, extravagently isn't second-nature yet. The other day at lunch I was in the middle of passing judgement on another person's action when I stopped. I told hubby, "No, I'm not going down this path. Whether or not their action had an ulterior motive doesn't matter. I'm going to assume their motive was pure adn loving."

    Trust me, that wasn't an easy admission to make because my conspiracy-laden mind distrusts, is suspicious. Which is why I created a character with that same problem. Maybe as I write her out of it, God will teach me how to be less suspicious.

  8. Oh, Deb, I forgot to respond to something. You said:

    How close do you get [to the world], how far away do you stay? Is sin catching? No. Or is it? Definitely one of the reasons that Christian are seen as hypocrites. We need some help with this one.

    Well, I'm convinced that if you are living a live that focuses on loving others--truly loving others--then that line isn't going to matter. Religion creates rules to help us feel self-righteous.

    Forget the fence. In fact, tear down the fence becasue Jesus didn't have any fences. Who did he associate with? Tax collectors, prostitutes, sinners. Who did he criticize? Religious people.

    Of course, I'm not advocating do whatever you want, indulge in whatever sin.

    Read Romans, Chapter 6.

    Oh, Deb, another problem with that fence is it causes us to take our eyes off Christ and put them on others. Look at Johnny. He drinks beer and watches WWF. Obviously he's backslidden. Look at Gina. She uses puesdo curse words and doesn't always wear nice church clothes on Sunday morning. Obviously she's backslidden.

    Now with that said, if one of our brothers or sisters in Christ SINS AGAINST US, we're to go to him/her one on one in private. If s/he refuses to listen, then we get a couple others and confront the person. If s/he still continues to heed (keeps sinning against us), then we are to share what we know with the entire church. If s/he still refuses to listen, then we are to separate from hime. (Matthew 18:15-17)

    Notice Jesus said was talking about a fellow Believer.

  9. Dina, you summed it up perfectly: faking love.

    I've done it.

    I've seen (and see) other Christ-followers do it.

    What we have to realize is those we fake love to can sense our real hearts. My oldest son has a friend who's gone nutso on him. Why? Because his friend senses Matt doesn't like him anymore, and despite Matt's insistance otherwise, the truth is he doesn't like his friend anymore. Who has to change? Matt. He needs to choose to love his friend EVEN if his friend continues to be nutso. If he doesn't, he's conditionally loving him.

    Wasn't the most enjoyable discussion I could have with my son, but I know his heart was receptive. We'll see how long it takes him to put into practice loving his friend regardless.

  10. This is something that believers seem to confuse with the world--we aren't supposed to tell anyone they're doing anything wrong. It's not loving.

    Sometimes loving is confronting the other's wrongness. This is a difficult part of love--and loving the person who is telling you you're out of line.

    And I figure that one needs to make sure one loves before one confronts.

    Sometimes, I think loving nonbelievers easier than loving believers. Why? Because they don't know better yet.

    The higher the expectations in the person, the harder that person is to love. Ouch.

  11. D'ye suppose God gives us those characters with 'flaws' so we can work them out (sweat and blood) letter by letter, hour after hour, day after month after year... and learn 'their' lesson?

    Dina, you brought up a good point. I have to stop and think who really pushes my buttons. The super judgemental Christians? The liberal open-minded person who automatically dislikes a Christian?
    I'm learning to love people who annoy me. I don't think I can love someone who is cruel but I can at least try to see past it and start there.

    I was thinking, Gina, about your statement of not being able to 'love someone you don't like'. I think you can dislike someone and still love them. Or maybe I'm confusing dislike for the person with dislike for their actions and decisions. Consider having an alcoholic or abuser or sociopath for a parent, sibling or child.

    In any case it's a matter of 'choosing not to go down that path' of judging and instead open up to emulating the Father's love.

    Laurie Alice. Exactly so! Some people should 'know better'.

    LIke us. We should know better, too.

    Gina, you're right. I have to take down the fence. But it was a nice fence and I hate to waste it. What can I build with it? A bridge?
    Good discussions. But it's friday. Must we be so philosophical?

  12. Lisa, I hear what your saying and agree sorta.

    Truly loving people means you accept them regardless.

    For God expressed His lvoe for the world in tihs way: He gave His only Son so that woever believes in Him will not face everlasting destruction, but will have everlasting life. Here's the point: God didn't send His Son into the world to judge it; instead He is here to rescue a world headed toward certain destruction. (John 3:16-17)

    "when the time was right, our Liverating King died for all of us who were far from God, poweerless, and weak. Now it is rare to find someone willing to die for an upright person, although it's possible that somene may give up his life for one who is truly good. But think about this: while we were wasting our lives in sin, God revealed His powerful love to us in a tangible way--the Liberating King died for us. As a result the blood of Jesus has made us right with God now, and at the final judgment, we will be rescued by Him from God's wrath." (Romans 5:6-11)

    When we read the gospels, we see that Jesus lived a very simple philosophy: If love guides our
    hearts, religious rules (the law) become redundant. I have a cousin-in-law who actively and openly lived a homosexual lifestyle. A few years ago, God drew her out of it. Did it happen because someone
    told her she was going to hell if she didn't change? Nope. Because we loved and accepted her (while without approving of her sin), her heart was open to another Christian family loving on her. They welcomed her into their home, shared Christ, and took her to church. The power of the Holy Spirit broke down her walls, drawing her into the arms of a forgiving Savior.

    Love brought her to repentance. Not condemnation.

    We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of the Lord. AND BECAUSE of how we've been
    forgiven and cleansed from our unrighteousness, we ought to have compassion--not condemnation--for those enslaved to sin.

    In his book THE END OF RELIGION, Bruxy Cavey wrote, "Those who follow Jesus are called to
    represent God's love to others, not His judgement (see Romans 12:19-21). When sinful, broken,
    hurting people are pleasantly surprised at how accepting we are, and religious people are
    outraged at how accepting we are, there is a good chance we're starting to live like Jesus. We
    will have finally learned the difference between acceptance and agreement, a lesson religious
    people find hard to grasp."

    As grace have been given to us, so should we give it to others. Let the Holy Spirit take care of the rest. After all, it's His job (see John 3:17; 12:47-38; Matthew 13: 24-30).

    So I go back to what I said in my blog post: "Nobody will listen to you unless they sense you like them."

    When we're so focused on another person's sin and how disgusting it is and we're so vocal in sharing our disgust with them, do you really think they're going to listen to us tell them about God's love and forgiveness? If they can't see love in our lives for them, why should they believe God loves them?

    Love extravangently.

  13. I have learned that when I continually pray for a person that I do not like (or intensely cannot stand), my heart softens for them and I do love them. I cannot love them with my own initiative or my own will. But, I love them because of the Holy Spirit living in me.
    I had a brother in-law that was either drunk or on drugs almost every time I saw him over a 23 year period of time. God used this experience to teach me about love. My brother in-law was obnoxious, very loud, cursed often, was abusive, uncontrollable. Yet, I began praying for him and my attitude changed greatly, I had more kindness and patience for him, and I grew to love him. I did not like what he did, but I did love him.
    Last Sunday my class teacher said the most segregated society in America is 11 am on Sunday morning. This quote came originally from Martin Luther King Jr. I believe it to be true.

  14. Deb, I'm not advocating liking the person's sin. But I am firmly convinced if you don't like the person as a person regardless of sin then you will never be able to truly love them.

    Love is encompassing.

    Love is regardless.

  15. I would like to throw in a few thoughts about loving sinners. I first read in a Brian MacLaren book that at some point when he stopped trying to "fix" sinners, he was more free to actually love them, and they felt that he truly loved them. As a result, he ended up having more influence in their lives because the friendship was real.

    I've noticed that my own daughter is very good at this. She really loves and likes the other kids at her public school despite their foibles and issues. I think she grew up with a lot less religious baggage than I did and this is the result coming through. She also has been through some excellent missionary training. She doesn't let them influence her or pull her down, she just is who she is and allows them to be who they are. I know she has a calling in her life to missionary work, and it's neat to see how that plays out. I learn from watching her.

    The only people the Bible instructs Christians to distance themselves from are other Christians living in unrepentant sin. Never actual regular old sinners.

    I also want to share that my husband has found one of the best ways to connect with my non Christian neighbors is to have a beer with them. If he will step down from his high horse and share in their cultural expression of community, it means the world to them and really helps to build bridges. Sadly, I don't like beer, but it seems to be more of a guy thing anyway.

  16. Fabulous post! I'm so glad I dropped by. You quoted some of my favorite authors and songwriters (David Crowder lives here in Waco, ya know :).

    I have struggled with this issue like everybody else, but it came to a head several years ago when an elder came against me (my husband was the senior pastor) and the Lord would not let me defend myself. He said he would be my defense. (Psalm 35) What I was to do was praise him and love his people regardless of my hurt.

    Out of that difficult time I developed a retreat called "The Simplicity of Jesus," and then a book, which has not been picked up yet :(
    The premise of the retreat/book is this:
    One Commandment: To Love
    One Sin: Lack Of Love
    One Proof: How We Love
    One Way: Jesus

    The bottom line is love, and your admonitions of the stickier issues of loving are well taken. Thanks for your bold and courageous observations.

  17. Golden, I hope your book gets picked up, because I know you have much wisdom to share.

    As Gina pointed out and the theme of your book suggests, I think there is a big shift in the church towards love, simplilicity, and also spirituality. For the last few hundred years the church has been very influenced by the age of reason and enlightenment thinking without even knowing it. We want to break everything down, categorize it, study it, figure it out, control it.

    We are finally moving away from all of that. I sincerely hope this will lead to a more authentic and culturally relevant form of Christianity. I'm sure we'll make our own mistakes, but no point in holding on to extra ones that don't even make sense to us any more.

  18. Dina, I so agree. What saddens me it "Christians" who will look at your hubbby and accuse him of living in the flesh. How can you be a good Christian if you drink beer? After all, it's a fact that Jesus only drank the modern-day equivalent of grape juice.

    The pastor at the church I grew up in was VERY adament about biblical times wine being today's grape juice.

    This spring I'm gonna do a tour of a vineyard north of Richmond. Not that I like wine. Burns my nose. But I'm fascinated by the process of making it. I'll call my tour "research for a future book." My friend Wendy is coming with me.

    God really began opening my eyes and heart to loving people, and it all began, really, this past December.

    First I read Donald Miller's BLUE LIKE JAZZ.

    Then PAGAN CHRISTIANITY by Frank Viola.

    Then THE END OF RELIGION by Bruxy Cavey.

    Last week I started FROM ETERNITY TO HERE by Frank Viola.

    He wrote: "Pulsating within the center of the Godhead was teh very essence of deity, a passionate love (John 17:24, 1John 4:16). All things pour forth from God the Father. He is the source of everything. This includes teh passion of divine love. Augustine once said, 'If God is love, then there must be in Him a Lover, a Beloved, and a Spirit of love; for no love is conceivable without a Lover and a Beloved.

    In the timelessness of eternity past, the Father had someone upon whom to pour out the passion of His being. It was His Son. The Father was the Lover; the Son was the Beloved. The fatehr was the source; the Son was teh recipient and teh responder. Consdquently, the Father loved the Son, and the Son reciprocated taht love to teh Father (John 17:24; 14:31).

    The Son, however, had no creature upon which to pour out the passion of HIS being. That is, there was no one to whom He could be the source of the torrential passion that flooded His own heart. While the Son certainly poured out His passion upon the Father, the Son was not the source of that passion. To put it another way, the Son Himself had no counterpart. To borrow Augustine's language, He had no 'beloved.'

    In this highly specific sense, God the Son was alone, just like Adam was alone [prior to God creating Eve]. Now Adam is a symbol, a representation of Christ, who wa yet to come.(Romans 5:14b) The last Adam--that is Christ...(1 Cor. 15:45b)

    So when God made man, there were two beings in the universe that were vibrating with an insatiable passion: the Son of God in heaven and Adam on earth. The frustrated passion of a love-filled God adn teh frustratred passion of a human made in his image. Then, no one non-day in a dateless past, God teh Father conceived a plan. It was to give His Son a companion, one who would match Him perfectly. one who would be just like Him, yet not Him. That being would be the Son of God in a differnt form. That being would also become the objeect of the Son's passion, a wife worthy of diety."

    Who's that woman?

    The church.

    Not a building.

    A redeemed people named ekklesia.

    But now He has reconciled you by Christ's physical body though death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation. (Col. 1:22)

    Because of His great love for us, how can we who follow Him not unconditionally love others?

    As long as we focus on their sin and feel the need to remind them that their sin condems them to a life spent in hell...well, it seems to me far too many in the church are doing that already. So why are sinners breaking down the doors in desperation to get saved?

  19. Golden, I'm gonna pray that your book is published. You're testimony is one we all need to here. Plus I need to add another book to my "how to love people" collection.

    Thank you also for the encouragement. In learning to love as Christ loved, I've had to shed many of the religious principles, rules, laws that I'd been taught growing up attending a Southern Baptist church.

    In his book FROM ETERNITY TO HERE, Frank Viola also wrote: "THe first Reformation was about liberating the Bible. The new Reformation is about liberating the bride. She alone is the great image-bearer of God on this earth. And as mysterious as it may sound, she--this beautiful girl is born in the lives of a group of Christians whenever they abandon themselves solely to Jesus Christ and take His view of themselves."

    I'm listening to David Crowder sing, "Here we are, the broken and used, mistreated, abused, here we are. So we lift up our voices, we open our hands to cling to the love that we can’t comprehend....

    Oh, lift up your voices
    And lift up your heads
    To sing of the love
    That has freed us from sin

    He is the one
    Who has saved us
    He is the one
    Who embraced us
    He is the one who has come
    And is coming again
    He’s the remedy

    Oh, I can’t comprehend
    I can’t take it all in
    Never understand
    Such perfect love come
    For the broken and beat
    For the wounded and weak
    Oh, come fall at His feet
    He's the remedy

    Let us be the remedy
    Let us bring the remedy"

    I'm confident that remedy begins and ends with love. Pointing out sin is the Holy Spirit's job.

  20. Powerful post, Gina. Socked me right between the eyes. I struggle with this very thing daily, and the sad part is the person I struggle over it with is my husband. Knowing that he should know better does indeed make doing what I'm told that much harder.

    I'm so glad I'm Presbyterian! We don't have the whole "you're backslidden if you drink" thing going on. The first small group party we went to in Laurel, there were 3 different kinds of beer and margaritas! But one set of my grandparents is from the "Jesus really drank grape juice" camp. There is one kind of beer I like, but I'd rather have a Cosmo or a Woo-Woo or a Mike's Hard Lemonade.

    Question #3: I do not have a coffee addiction. My only vice is chocolate and I have no desire to cure it.

  21. Gina, you radical... what are we going to do with you?
    This is quite possibly my favorite of all your posts thus far.
    I'm reading "Free Book" by Brian Tome. He asks this question: "How would you naturally complete the following sentence: "God's main think is that He wants me to be ___________." There's only one right answer, according to Tome. FREE. It's a difficult concept to grasp, as difficult as unconditional love. And if God wants ME to be free, then He wants others to be free, so who am I to judge them in their freedom?
    As for that darned fence... the great majority of our fence-wars are over things that aren't even in the Bible, or were culturally specific, or are really left up to us to listen to the Holy Spirit and know what's right for us--to discern the "spirit of the law" as opposed to the letter of the law. Most of the time when I pray about things like drinking a glass of champagne at a wedding, or piercing my nose, or wearing pants to teach at church on Sunday morning (yeah, that's a double whammy, isn't it? I should try wearing my track suit this week) I sense the Spirit of God saying, "That's really up to you, do what you want." Same voice, same spirit, that brought me to the cross, that urged me to repent, that gets on my case when I gripe about my sister-in-law or get caught up in juicy gossip at the office. (I love my MIL, so I must be holier than you, huh? Oh, wait, I've got a pierced nose, maybe that makes us even.)
    BTW, is the Erwin McManus quote from a book? I'd like to read it.
    Thank you for wrapping up this week with BOLDNESS! This was a great week in Inky World.

  22. I read this post I think just minutes after Gina posted it. Been thinking about it. I'm building my career onlove--love between man and woman, love between parent and child, love amongst siblings and friends. I write love stories, and my characters have issues with love.

    Making me think how easy it is to work out the love issues of characters, but not to work out our own. I had a certain visitor a few weeks ago. Gina got to listen to me whine for a week. Yep, mus tlove her. Nope, not there yet.

    I think breaking a coffee addiction would be easier, which I don't have because I can stop any time, but if I keep praying, maybe...

    And I wasn't mean at all to Gina this last time I read her work, just for the record.

  23. Rachel, I'll be a chocolate addict with you. My older sister gave me a Mike's hard lemonade for christmas, maybe, four years ago. I'm trying to remember because I wasn't pregnant or nursing. My husband didn't think I'd drink it. I did. One night during my nightly pre-going-to-bed reading. Yum-O.

    I'm too cheap to buy another one. Plus considering my hubby is a preacher, I kinda feel like I ought not to becasue of his position in the church.

  24. Niki, you must be the true radical between us because I've never been tempted to have a nose ring. Although once I can convince hubby to be okay with me getting a tattoo, I'm there. :-) And it's not gonna be one no body can see.

    I love the Newsboys' song, "I am free."

    What saddens me is Christ died to make us free, yet practically all Christian religious denominations add rules and regulations that re-put us in bondage.

    The Erwin MacManus quote is end the book THE END OF RELIGION by Bruxy Cavey. Looks like my next book to buy is FREE BOOK by Brian Tome.

    Funny thing about wearing a track suit...

    I would but if my attitude is I'm gonna wear this becasue I'm trying to make a point, then my attitude is just as wrong as dressing to impress others.

  25. I do believe in unconditional love, because most of all, that is what we are given by our Lord. However, I also know that you cannot make a person do what they need to do to redeem themselves. No matter how much you love them and pray for them, they must make the decision on their own. I also know that we must not allow ourselves to be diminished by the weakness of others. We are each given precious time on this Earth to learn what it means to be human, to sin and err and be forgiven. Some people will spiral down and drag you with them if you don't place the love of God above the love of human beings. Sacrificing yourself will not save someone from their addictions or wrongful ways. It will just make you another victim. I have lost some very special people to substance abuse, mostly alcohol. Some of those people are dead and some are just lost. My stepfather and a close cousin were both alcoholics and both committed suicide. My oldest friend, my childhood sweetheart, committed "slow suicide" and died at the age of 37. He had problems with drugs, alcohol and other self-destructive behavior.

    Another special man, the love of my life, was born into a family of alcoholics and lived up to the family legacy. He chose a drinker's life instead of the chance for a home and family with me. Even though he works and supports himself, he still continues the alcoholic lifestyle. Did I ever judge these people and stop loving any of them? No. Did I let them draw me into their problematic lifestyles? No. Do I miss them, wish they were well and whole and a living part of my life? Always.

    The kindest and most courageous thing you can do for a person is to love them, pray for them and remain strong in your own spiritual beliefs. Be a forgiver, not a fool. For me, the life we are given here on earth, and the eternal life we are promised, is a high that no reality-altering substance or psychological and physical thrill can match.

    gcwhiskas at aol dot com

  26. LOL, Laurie. You're right about not being mean to me the last time you read my work, but that's because I took all the advice you gave on this story and another one and implemented it. Sometiems I am a slow learner. Okay, many times. So I value your honesty because I know your heart's desire is to help me. You don't give me faux love.

    I've listened to David Crowder's "Remedy" live cd three times already this morning and it just keeps getting better and better.

    I want to sing like him. Well, not exactly like him. Just sing as well as he my an improved version of my voice.

    Oh, and I don't have a coffee addiction either. I've driven by Starbucks several times this week and not stopped in once. How many times I "yearned" as I drove by, I will not confess to.

    Just so you know, there are SIX Starbucks within half-a-mile diameter around the Short Pump Wal-Mart. No I did not measure. I merely know these things.

  27. Since Gina seems to be on a post-modern reading rampage, let me mention that my favorite post-modern writer is Steven James in his nonfiction. Although I love to read anything post-modern I can get my hands on, I usually find places where I think, "Ahh, they pushed it a little too far there."

    Steven's books are very balanced and Biblical. And funny too, by the way.

  28. Thanks, Virginia, for sharing. I totally understand the need to have personal boundaries from some people.

    For example, say I have a friend who went out each weekend clubbing. Would I go? No.

    Say I had a friend who when we were together we constantly gossiped about others. If after I actively tried to change my behavior and failed, then I might consider lessoning the time I spent with that friend until I could learn to depend more on Christ to master my tongue.

    Loving someone unconditionally doesn't mean we should give another person the freedom to physically/emotionally/spiritually/verbally abuse us.

    I'm not a trained counselor, nor do I want to be. Fortunately many godly counselors are out there. In fact I saw one this morning on my facebook page.

    Lucy Ann Moll, The Counselor to Christian Women in a Crazy World

  29. "Sure, we called it unconditional, but it wasn't...."

    This is a fabulous post. Two things have made me consider what is truly unconditional love. One is having children. As they grow and mature, I realize that I won't like all of their choices, especially as adults, and I intend in my heart to love them no less than when they were cute, cuddly babies cooing in my ear.

    The other thing has been joining the writing community, particularly the Christian writing community. There's so much love there, but whew, there's a WHOLE lot of judgment too. I've been surprised and dismayed by it at times.

    If I don't interpret Scripture the way you do...

    If my church's doctrines differ from yours...

    If my culture is different than yours...

    If my politics are not the same as yours...

    If my fiction doesn't read like yours...

    The kind smiles are offered, a front for the simmering thoughts and attitudes behind them.

    At times, I've truly questioned how we can call ourselves Christian and be so closed-minded, so arrogant, so judging of others. I'm not talking about stuff that the Bible clearly calls a sin, but stuff that is simply a difference in choice.

    And the voice of the Lord has whispered to me, "Show love." I'm still learning and I'm sure I stumble at times, but I'm thankful for the lesson.

    PS -- I have got to get that Donald Miller book.

  30. Gina,
    Oh baby, what a heart-ripping, life-challenging, faith-stretching post and a rip-roaring honest conversation.

    I'm continually blown away by the depth and honesty of our inkies, but you've just ripped the scab off the ugliest wound in Christianity--our lack of real love for others.

    Thanks to all the ladies for contributing to a great conversation on this topic. We need more opportunities to dive deep in what it means to be a Christian.

    I'll never forget the moment of my revelation about love. We were newly committed Christians in a lovely sincere evelangelical church and coming to terms with the no-drinking, no sinners, no herbal tea attitude. We were also fully wound up in social activism against homosexual rights and abortion and the other us against the world stuff when I read an op ed piece in Faith Today. The writer talked about a movement in Florida to give up the culture war and just love people.

    Every bit of righteousness in me rebelled at the idea, but the whole concept of loving instead of judging wouldn't let go. Every time I read a letter to the editor from a Christian I couldn't help but see how hateful the attitude was. It took years (is still taking years) to understand that the church could win the culture war and still lose the world for Christ.

    My life verse became: Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. (Phil 2:2-4)

    It was only when I started to believe that others, even non-believers, sinners by every standard Christians hold dear, might have something to teach me about life, love, humility, family, faith, honesty, integrity, whatever, was I freed to love. I had to and still have to apply that verse when I deal with my mother or mother-in-law--to remember that they still can teach me something if I am willing to set aside my righteous indignation and hurts to learn from them. And love them. I came to embrace Paul's admonission that all have sinned and all have fallen short of God's glory. And yet also to remember that all are made in God's image. ALL.

    I still struggle to deal with people who are different and believe this is a lifelong journey, but pray God will not let me go. That by his spirit I will love better in all circumstances.

    Gina, love your pseudo-swears and willingness to risk scorn for the sake of an addidas track suit. I love your courage to say out loud what the rest of us think but are too browbeaten by convention to speak. Keep up the good work!

  31. Awh gee, do I hafta?

    All I can say, Gina is I know where you're coming from... been there done that... not finished yet.

    Awesome post. I do believe I need to spend some time on my knees.

    Thanks for the reminder.

  32. Wow, wow wow. Great post, Gina, and excellent convo afterward. Sorry I missed it. I was out buying stuff to get ready for my new puppy. Boy did I miss out.

    Here's my answers to your questions: 1) You hit me where it hurts, Gina! I've been struggling! I think God's working something in me on this very topic. I'm not as brave as you are, though, so I'm not going to elaborate here. But thanks for the reminders and Scripture references, which I desperately need. I was just crying and angry about this very thing this morning, almost willing myself to love someone. Clearly I need God's help.

    Q #3) Is it the coffee addiction, or the addiction to the froo-froo Starbucks drinks, which could be interpreted as an addiction to sugar? Hmm.

    Q #4) You know me well enough by now to know that we adore David Crowder at my house. Glad you quoted his fabulous new song.

    Ok, I'm off now to give up the culture war and just love people. Extravagantly. With God's help.

  33. Is it possible that we have trouble loving because love just hurts. Sometimes we love and love and love and, because we are imperfect, we don't get it back.

    Sorry, just thinking of a friend, whom I didn't love when I should have and now that I'm learning to love in spite of hurt, hasn't gotten that far.

    This is a consequence of not loving, too. We lose. And I think when we lose by not loving, we drive another nail through our Lord and into that cross of love.

    You know, I'm writing a novel right now about a woman who didn't love when she should have and now is eaten with guilt.

  34. Oh Gina,
    Did I ever tell you about my MIL? I don't think I'll do that here. My hubby and I have been married almost 29 years and it's been by his example that I have learned to love unloveable people within our families and outside our families. I hope that doesn't seem awful, but I have been exposed to some truly unloveable folks. they probably feel the same way about me.

    Learning to love some folks seems to be an ongoing cycle.:) Just when I think I'm making progress something happens that makes me cringe. Jesus has been very patient with me. I can be a bit stubborn, but I've grown over the years.

    Oddly, it was loving my child with mental illness more than anything else that taught me to love others and not judge. Severe mental illness is not pretty and can do damage, a lot of damage. But you love in spite of the illness and God strengthens your spirit and your heart and you keep loving.

    This is probably making no sense at all, but in my round about way I'm trying to say loving the way Christ loves is hard and all we can do is keep on trying.

    Gina, I loved this:

    In his book THE END OF RELIGION, Bruxy Cavey wrote, "Jesus called His followers to live by a higher standard, the way of love instead of the way of the law. And to drive home His point, He had to break the rules over and over again."

    I look forward to reading this book and I love David Crowder.:) Thank you, Gina.

  35. I really needed to hear this. It's true our love is marred with impossible conditions. It's so hard to face the fact we really do have barriers and walls put up to keep others out. It's wonderful to have the spotlight shined on our iniquities, especially when we were only vaguely aware we had them. Thank you for this well thought out wonderful post. And, Happy early Valentines!

  36. You my dear have something many do not have...VOICE.

    I knew it was you right away.

  37. Gina, how fabulous! I especially love the part that admonishes us to STOP saying we're stupid or silly or weird, or whatever, when we express an opinion or tell a story. Get out of the self-abuse mode. I'm going to use that.

    Also, Why would you give up a coffee addiction when you have five children? I'm stickin' to MINE!

    And, Can't wait for March Madness. I'm the one who requested blenders & jazz music. Oh, I can hardly wait. How many days?


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