Somehow, I didn’t see the movie Love, Actually until this week when someone mentioned the actor playing Rick Grimes on The Walking Dead was also in Love, Actually. I was curious, so my husband and I watched it after the kids were in bed. I have been thinking a lot about daring to love, daring to believe in love, and so the opening monologue felt very personal to me. Especially this part:
“When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge – they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around.”
As I said, I’ve been thinking a lot about daring to love and believing in love. I started because I noticed something about myself. For a while now, I have felt the urge to qualify my Christianity. You know what I mean. Some of you do it too, or else you’ve heard someone else do it.
“I’m a Christian, but …”
The ‘but’ may be followed by any number of things.
But I don’t hate Muslims …
But I don’t hate gay people …
I was going to keep listing examples, but I just realized that, for me, the ‘but’ is almost always followed by the insistence that I don’t hate anyone.
In the book of John, Jesus says, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Lately, I spend a lot of time horrified by the words and actions of Christians. How did we go from following a man who insisted we be known by our love to being absolutely known for the things we (or some of us) are against? Why in the world should I have to qualify my claim to Christianity with a list of people I don’t hate?How did we go from following a man who insisted we be known by our love to being absolutely known for the things we (or some of us) are against?Click To Tweet
In truth, I don’t think I do. I think I have let a very vocal group of people call my own beliefs into question. But they are not the only members of this large and, yes, mostly dysfunctional, family. Because that’s what we are, a family. And every family has their nuts, their aunts who pinch cheeks too hard and uncles who loudly announce their political stances over Thanksgiving dinner. Every family has their stories about the sister who took too many pills, the brother-in-law that can’t keep his hands off his secretary, the grandmother who maybe shouldn’t be driving anymore, but no one wants to be the person to take away her keys.
I was raised by a Christian woman and an agnostic man. Somehow these two amazing people made me, and my beliefs don’t match their beliefs on either end of the spectrum. But they couldn’t love me harder if they tried, and they never fail to let me know they are proud of who I am, and I am so grateful for how they poured themselves into my life and encouraged me to ask questions and chase answers.
I don’t get to deny my brothers and sisters, even when I think they are crazy and smearing the family name in the mud. I don’t understand the hate. However, I do understand that people change. They grow. They get convicted on different things at different rates of speed, and I can’t choose the Holy Spirit’s timeline.
You see, I used to be one of those hateful Christians. I wouldn’t have seen it that way, and they don’t see it that way either. I was young, and I’d like to use that to excuse myself and go on judging the not-young Christians who go around acting like small-scale Hitlers at worst and close-minded Pharisees at best. But, again, I am not in charge of when people change or how they change. I am in charge of loving them. I don’t have to condone their practices, but I also don’t get to pretend they are beyond hope, that I am somehow better than them because I grew up faster or differently.
I can’t say to someone, “I am a Christian, but I don’t hate,” because I do hate. I hate differently. I hate less vocally. I hate while justifying my feelings as something other than what they are.
I don’t hate the same things I used to or the same things others hate. You wouldn’t in a million years catch me picketing an abortion clinic in anger or snubbing a woman in a headscarf. Instead, in that phrase, “I am a Christian, but,” I have turned my hate on my own family. I have chosen to hate the hateful and thereby made myself one of them.
And I’m going to be honest with you. I don’t really know how to stop. I don’t know how to be okay with being a part of a family with so many members that break my heart. I don’t know how to forgive brothers and sisters that don’t see how they are wrong, even when I am sure there are ways I am wrong without seeing it either.I don’t know how to be okay with being a part of a family with so many members that break my heart.Click To Tweet
But I can dare to try.
I can dare to claim my family, to say, “I am a Christian,” without adding clauses to the end of the contract. I can dare to be known for my love.
Because I think that is still true. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard people say about someone else, “Oh, he was such a man of faith. He was so good to people.”
When my friend’s husband was killed a few years ago, I heard story after story of how he, within the bounds of his job as a police officer, showed Christ to people, how he talked with people he pulled over and went out of his way to ensure safety, above and beyond the call of duty. When another friend’s wife died, I listened as people told stories of her service to the church and the community.
Christians are still known by their love. It’s just that love is quieter. Love is found most often in day-to-day actions and not so much in loud declarations on the Internet and graphic displays on CNN or Fox News.Christians are still known by their love. It’s just that love is quieter. #middleplacesClick To Tweet
There are good people left in this world. And I will dare to believe in them.
I will dare to go on loving in the face of hate.
I will dare to claim this family, to love this family.