Labeled

We all do it. We categorize and define groups of people. It is human, we do it so that we can easily identify who is part of “us” and who is a threat. The problem with labels is that if we are followers of Christ, we are called to throw them away. We are called to love, righteous or unrighteous, friend or enemy, advocate or persecutor.

Jesus calls us to love like the Father, who sends rain on the righteous and the sinner and sends the sun to shine on both those committed to good and evil. Did you read that? Not just on those who ignore God, or those who disobey his commands, or on those who disagree with him, but God sends the sun to shine on the evil person!

Who springs to mind when the word evil is uttered? Maybe you have a person in your life, a political figure, a historical figure that you believe fulfills the definition of evil. But wait, God loves that person.

Bigger uh-oh, God wants you to love that person.

What does it mean to love someone who we believe to be evil?

That is a tough question. Here is a short list of what it doesn’t mean. It does not mean supporting or enabling their evil behavior. It does not mean holding our tongue or going along with their evil plans. It does not mean having warm fuzzy feelings about them.

It does mean that if they are hungry, you feed them, or in need of medical attention, you get them help. It does mean that you speak the truth to them as you are able. It does mean not wishing them harm. It means, on some level, wanting good things for them.

This is not an exercise in abstraction for me. It is something I have to actively pursue out of obedience and a firm belief that when I love my enemies, I become closer to Christ. I grow as a person. My world becomes just that much better.

I did this today with a group of fellow ministers as we prayed for our leaders in the coming year. I prayed for God to reveal himself in awesome, undeniable ways to our leaders, and to make them into people that would inspire admiration. I prayed these things for leaders I did not vote for. Some of the leaders elected in November scare me with their potential to create evil in the world. But I prayed for them to prosper anyway.

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.  This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:1-4

The funny thing is that I feel better. I told God honestly what I thought, then I prayed for God’s blessings, revelation, transformation, and presence to make a difference. I believe this will make a positive difference in the lives of those leaders. I believe it will make their lives better, and I believe it will make the lives of those under their leadership better, too.

When we label, and we will, if we are aware of what we are doing then we can act to make sure that our gut reaction doesn’t change the way we treat the people in front of us. We can act with kindness. We can act with respect. We can seek their good.

We can do all this regardless of whether our labeling involves sports rivalries, religious differences, cultural differences, or political differences. God doesn’t give us exceptions to the rule. Love them. Good or evil. Righteous or sinner.

When we love we may just find our labels fading into insignificance.

That would be ReFreshing!

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