How Do You Show You Love God?
If you visit my church online or in person, it won't take long to figure out that the words "Love God, Love Everybody" are essential to us.
Those words are repeated on Sunday mornings in various ways; we incorporate them into the liturgy, announcements, offering moments, and sermons.
They are also printed on just about all of our print materials, and there are signs affixed to the walls in at least two different places in our buildings, including right in front of our sanctuary.
You might also encounter any number of people wearing their "Love God, Love Everybody" shirts on a Sunday morning with the logo below on the front:
From time to time, I get asked about this phrase and why and how it is the vision of our church. The how part is complicated. The story of how "Love God, Love Everybody" became our vision is too long for one blog post.
[Shameless plug moment: I just finished writing a book about how "Love God, Love Everybody" became our church's vision, and it's about to be published. You should totally read it, when it comes out.]
Why "Love God, Love Everybody" is our church's vision is a bit easier to answer because it comes down to three words: Jesus. Said. So.
In Matthew's Gospel, Jesus is asked which commandment he thinks is the "greatest," He responds by essentially mashing two commands together: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and strength, and your neighbor as yourself."
This question is implied in Jesus' response: "How can you say that you love God if you don't love everybody?"
Interestingly, I have found some of the most beautiful words about this very thing written by a Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hahn:
Unless you know how to love your neighbor, you cannot love God, you have to reconcile with your neighbor, because reconciling with your neighbor is to reconcile with God. It means that you can only touch God through his creatures; you will not understand what is love, the love of God, unless you practice the love of humanity.
Now Hahn speaks of being reconciled with one's neighbor, which takes things a step further. Reconciliation is something that happens by being close to another. It typically doesn't happen from a distance.
We might say that we love everybody, even those considered "enemies," but to show that love, we need to seek reconciliation with them, which means we can't hold people at arm's length.
If, by now, you are saying, "This whole vision to Love God, Love Everybody" seems a lot harder than it sounds," you'd be right.
It's not a slogan; it's a command. And the one stating that command is the One whom those of us who call ourselves Christians say we follow. This means we don't get a pass on loving God and loving everybody.
May you and I find ways to love and be reconciled with others. May we strive to show our love for God and everybody, even those with whom we disagree. May we make this a way of life and a way of being.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with us all, now and forever. Amen.