This Lent, don't give up love

March 21st, 2018

Judging by Facebook posts these days, puppies are in. People with whom you disagree are out. Love is in short supply. We’ve had it worn thin with “sex, lies and videotape.” But don’t give up on love. Jesus, above all else, was about love: love of God, love of people, love of self and love of the unlovable. If we give up on love, we might as well give up on being Christian. It just doesn’t work.

You might think you can’t love the world, or your neighbors, the people who are very different from you. But you can learn how. You don’t even have to know them. You certainly don’t need to like them. But you can love them, unconditionally.

How can your church show unconditional love these days?

1. Welcome in strangers like long-lost brothers and sisters. Rev. Roger Teel once shared how his wife carried around $5 bills to give to people standing on street corners. “How are you? It’s so good to see you!” she would exclaim. Like she knew them. Like she cared about them. What if we took this same attitude toward the strangers in our lives, pews, fellowship halls, and the like? Not only would we feel more affinity toward them, it would shift their attitude toward us.

2. Pray for people you resent or disagree with. Don’t pray for their heart to change. Rather pray for your heart to change toward them. Here’s how. First, write out the deepest desire of your heart — everything you want for yourself. Second, pray it with fervor and passion. Third, pray it one more time — for them. Substitute their name for yours. This will soften your heart toward them such that you can begin to interact with them in a new way. Pray both prayers every day for two weeks. You will notice a significant shift. I prayed this sort of prayer for a colleague. While my resentment didn’t go away, I did notice this: how small and pitiful my own desires were for my life. It was a real “come to Jesus” moment. I realized I needed to stop being so afraid and so much in the victim mode. I did later forgive my colleague. But first I had to get a hold of myself. How might your congregation change with this prayer practice? Only one way to find out.

3. Practice loving people as they are. For a whole day, every time you catch yourself wanting to fix or change others, notice it, set it aside, and ask God to help you radiate love toward them.

4. Invite people to your church you wouldn’t be caught dead with. Maybe they’re up the socioeconomic ladder from you, or maybe they’re down the socioeconomic ladder from you. Or maybe they are someone you think judges you. Never mind. Invite them anyway. Again, this takes away conditions from our love of others, and creates the space of unconditional love.

It’s hard to love people, let alone like people. Liking people is overrated. Love is what is needed, unconditional love. This Lent, make a real difference in the world by not giving up love. Or your neighborhood, or being the church!

Need some extra help? Learn how to use the Platinum Rule for Thriving Congregations. Or reach out to us. We’re here to empower church leaders and the congregations they serve!

Rebekah Simon-Peter blogs at She is the author of The Jew Named Jesus and Green Church.

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