For Christians, the touchstone to any cultural or political conflict should always be: What is the most Christlike response? And to be like Christ is to be full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, and self-control. Jesus radically loved the world around him, and so should we.
The bible says that “anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:8), and “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Cor. 13:1).
Whether it’s immigration, poverty, criminal justice reform, or national defense, Christians must always ask themselves this: How is the love of Jesus informing my opinions and actions?
Jesus showed us how to love by aligning himself with those who were facing systemic oppression and injustice: the women, children, the sick, and the blind. These manifestations of Christ’s love included offering mercy and grace, but it also meant, condemning oppressors and calling out injustice. Jesus boldly confronted the people and institutions that tyrannized others. He created enemies by calling out the religious leaders for their corruption and hypocrisy and contradicting Caesar and the Roman Empire. Jesus pursued love regardless of the consequences — even to the point of being crucified on a cross.
Jesus’ love in action is clearly documented in the New Testament, providing us with a clear script to follow. Unfortunately, his “love-your-neighbor-as-yourself” way of living is contradictory to the cultural norms of craving power and security above all else. To follow Jesus means making — and staying loyal to — an allegiance to the kingdom of God rather than the kingdoms of men. It requires prioritizing Jesus above our personal, professional, and political agendas — often requiring us to make meaningful and substantial sacrifices within our own lives.
Christendom — and large swaths of the religion that has assumed Christ’s namesake —has manipulated and co-opted the life of Christ to the point of becoming nothing like the person it claims to represent. Throughout history and continuing today, Christians have committed all sorts of wrongs under the banner of “Christianity.” Genocide, slavery, misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia, and all manner of evil has occurred via “Christianity.” Even today, some of the fiercest and most vocal opponents of showing Christlike love are “Christians” themselves. They have either ignored, forgotten, or intentionally contradicted the life of Jesus.
Many Christians have rationalized destructive behavior by underemphasizing the importance of Christ’s life and overemphasizing particular parts of the bible. In this way, they idolize segments of the bible that coincide with their own opinions, while simultaneously devaluing the life and words of Christ. This allows almost anyone to use the bible to reinforce any idea, similar to the “biblical” method Satan used when he unsuccessfully tried to tempt Jesus using scripture verses.
Instead of holistically replicating the radical love of Jesus, we minimize and compartmentalize who could possibly be the modern equivalents of the outcast individuals Jesus accompanied throughout his life. Thus, our love becomes contractual, contingent on who makes the theological cut according to our biblical interpretations. Many contemporary Christian culture wars have revolved around the idea of being “biblical” rather than being radically loving. And many people — including countless Christians themselves — have been oppressed because of it: LGBTQIA individuals, immigrants, refugees, Muslims, people of color, women, liberals, conservatives, etc.
But everyone is divinely made in the image of God and deserving of Christ’s radical love. The love of Christ is the antidote to the problems “Christianity” has created.
Only the love of Jesus can help us now. This love isn’t limited to merely a spiritual salvation, but it should likewise provide practical salvation — salvation from poverty, sickness, and injustice in our world.
The love of Christ shouldn’t be compromised by anything or anyone that may prevent these manifestations of salvation from happening. Undoubtedly, this uncompromising love demands risk. To identify with Christ may require sacrificing your reputation, friends, family, career, or even your life, all for the sake of radically loving others. But to do so, to love like Jesus loved, is what it means to truly follow Christ. May we generously love the world around us to the best of our ability. God help us.