Don’t let the words fool you. This isn’t about you, or me, at all. It’s about us.
Jesus said some words long ago that we, in the church, know well and believe well. But often struggle to practice.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these. Mark 12:30-31
We believe these words. But what does it “look” like?
Jesus told a story about a Samaritan to a super smart guy who asked “how to get eternal life”.
Bottom line: Be kind and be hospitable. Receive others, the misfits, strangers, the messy people, and yes, the ones who think they are the best thing since sliced bread. Receive them ALL as if they are Jesus.
I like to remind myself to see “me” in the “we”. I cannot point at another without pointing at myself. My wrongs are plentiful, my mistakes many. My confessions to God make that clear. I have not loved God well, and I have not loved people well. But I am practicing. And that, I think, is practicing love.
Here are my practices:
- Receive people where they are and how they are
No fixing, no “should-ing” (“you should do this…”). If they’re sad, be present. Practice compassion. If they’re happy, share their joy (even if you’re grumpy).
- Receive their words.
Just listening to someone tells them they matter. How powerful a concept that is. Jesus reminds us to just listen–to show others we care. If they’re chatty and you can’t get a word in, be kind and patient. Maybe they haven’t felt heard in a really long time. If they’re silent, just be with them. Try not to “force” them to talk. Maybe they don’t know what to say and need time to think it through.
- Receive their presence.
Just being with people teaches us more than we know. We were made for relationships, even awkward ones. Jesus received the young man’s presence, even though he likely knew what would send the young man away and dejected. Jesus receives us, even if we aren’t sure what we believe anymore.
Here are some words to reflect on from Jesus:
“This is a large work I’ve called you into, but don’t be overwhelmed by it. It’s best to start small. Give a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty, for instance. The smallest act of giving or receiving makes you a true apprentice. You won’t lose out on a thing.” Matthew 10:42 MSG
Jesus tells us here that the work he has asked us to do is hard. Relationships are hard. Loving people who hurt, trick, mislead or lie to us (or someone we love) is very hard.
So Jesus gives us a clear pattern to learning how to love: just be there and receive what comes our way by receiving people where they are, receiving their words and receiving their presence.
You may be received the same gracious, hospitable way. And you’ll feel the difference.