For the last few years, less than I’d like to admit, I’ve been intentionally trying to #LoveWell. I have been trying really hard to model my life after the life of Christ. I don’t say this in a braggy way or in some sentimental sappy kind of way.
It was about the time that I was beginning the process of entering into the world of starting a new congregation that I was confronted with the reality that what I believed and how I lived didn’t match. I was a person who argued, debated, and fought for the most minute of theological details. Within the confines of those details I believed that I would experience the love of God. More than anything I wanted God to be proud of me. When my life ends I want to hear God say, “Well done good and faithful servant.” Deep within I knew that I was someone who God would not be proud of. My sense of self was one that was overwhelming on one hand and full of loathing on the other. I saw little good in me and yet I thought the world of myself.
Then something happened. I can’t really put my finger on it. But it was in connection with the realization that the “church” was not rooted in a physical structure or institution but the DNA of the church was fully latent in every person. C.S. Lewis wrote in The Weight of Glory, “Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses.” As I wrestled through what the church actually was and is, this reality of the image of God in each person became an inescapable reality.
As I wrestled with how to love well, beyond mere sentimentality, I was confronted anew by the beatitudes in Matthew 5. Since then I have sought to try and live these principles. There is significant inner work that has to be done as you pursue these ways of life. I fail often. There is a never ending struggle to live these out. I don’t think I will ever come to the end of trying to understand what it means
to be poor in spirit,
to truly mourn,
to be meek,
to hunger and thirst for righteousness,
to be merciful,
to have a pure heart,
to make peace,
to be persecuted.
All these things are a constant way of doing self-evaluation. They also demand a death of self in a way that I never thought possible.
To try and practice living this way has plunged me into the deep end of the color spectrum. Where once the world was black and white, everything is now brilliant. It’s not easy but it’s more beautiful than I ever could have imagined.
It can also be hard. Very, very hard.
When you begin setting aside old ideas about in-out/us-them, you quickly find out which relationships were real and which were based on your ability to agree.
In some ways, I think that this is part of what Jesus meant when said, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. (Matt 5:11)”
If a person doesn’t fit into our neat and clean boxes then what happens is that there is fear. We fear the unknown. Being not in the box makes you an outsider and that makes folks uncomfortable. The discomfort leads to fear. More than once I have asked someone, “What are you afraid of? Why are you afraid to love more recklessly? Why are you afraid of doing something different?”
When it comes to living the way of Christ we will find ourselves outside the easy lines drawn for us. When you do, realize it’s not a bad thing. It’s a good thing. It’s another opportunity to love well.