By Pastor Phil Beck
A question I have been hearing a lot lately, “Why can’t we just love everybody?” is a little bit confusing to me. When I hear this question, it is usually from someone who is being told that something in their life is out of whack or they are being reprimanded for a behavior that is clearly harmful to them or those around them. They ask this when they don’t want anyone telling them what they are doing is wrong, let alone giving them advice on how they should be living. So I guess what they are saying is that if you really loved them you would just let them live how they want to.
Why can’t we just love everyone? It is a good question. What does love actually mean? I hear it used in so many different ways. I love peanut butter, I love green beans, I love the Steelers (or replace them with your favorite team), I love the jeans I have on, I love my car. You get my point, I hope. We use it so frequently I think we have lessened its true meaning and then we use it for how we feel about each other. Do you love me like peanut butter or do you love me like your jeans?
All I know is that when I was growing up my mom and dad told me they loved me. Of course to show that love they provided everything I needed, a roof over my head and food on the table, but I especially knew they did because they made sure they let me know when I was in danger of hurting myself or when I was heading down the wrong road (figuratively speaking). Sometimes that love was in the form of discipline. My mom knew how to lovingly persuade me to follow her guidelines. Now she could have just let me do whatever I wanted, but that wouldn’t have been love. I don’t know one parent out there who would allow their children to play with fire or in busy traffic. And it isn’t because they hated them, it was because they loved them.
Hopefully you are following my train of thought.
Why am I so confused about this? You see, I am a pastor. I have been called by God to open the Bible and proclaim what it says. And it says a lot. It tells us about a God who loves us. Loves us enough that He would send His one and only Son to bear the wrath of God for your sins and mine. If God is love, why are there so many places in the Bible that tell us how to live? I thought He loves us.
In the second book of the Old Testament (Exodus) the writer is recording the story of God rescuing the Hebrew children out of Egypt. In the 20th chapter they are at Mount Sinai and God is giving them the Ten Commandments. Now as soon as we hear “Ten Commandments,” we think, “What a party pooper!” A list of do’s and don’ts. Trying to force something on them.
But in fact it was a covenant of love from a loving God. The Hebrew children had just come out of 430 years of living with the Egyptians and looked and acted like them. Which wasn’t good. God’s desire was to have a group of people who looked and acted like Him. So that people could see what an invisible God looked like. Thus the Ten Commandments, not a list of do’s and don’ts but a picture of God’s love and character.
There it is again, just like my mom’s way of showing me love by giving me guidelines to follow, here is God shaping and molding the Hebrews by giving them guidelines to follow. Not because he hated them, but because He loved them.
I believe if we are left to ourselves we will choose the easy way out (what makes us feel good) every single time. I believe He has spoken very clearly on many issues that we have blurred. So when Jesus says, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it” (Matthew 7:13 NKJV), I believe he is showing us what love is by inviting us but also by warning us. There is a narrow way (life) and a broad way (death).
What’s so confusing is that there are many voices out there who are trying to widen that narrow way, all in the name of this thing called love. So to answer the question, “Why can’t we just love everyone?” I first would like to know if it is really love they’re asking about?
Phil Beck is pastor of Central Community Church, Pymatuning Township.