God hates us all?
The woman ahead of me was having trouble going through U.S. security. Piercings and tattoos highlighted her exposed skin. As she removed an outer jacket, I noticed her T-shirt read "God hates us all."
I wanted to talk to her. What did she mean? The first song I learned as a child was "Jesus Loves Me." Why would someone come to such a contradictory conclusion?
She turned one direction in the airport, I another. Later, I found out that she was promoting the popular heavy metal band, Slayer. Her T-shirt reflected the lyrics of a title track in their album:
God hates us all, God hates us all.
You know it's true, God hates this place.
You know it's true he hates this race.
There may be many reasons for their conclusion, but one of them has to do with us—as Christians. Frequently, Christians are portrayed as narrow minded, harsh, judgmental and exclusionary; hardly the place you would run to if you were broken and afraid. We can blame the media, but all too often it reflects common experience. Many in our culture have experienced rejection and even hatred from the Church. Why then would they believe in the existence of a loving God?
Jesus did not have this same gap between His brand and His reputation. When Jesus was asked what was central to faith and obedience, His answer was clear and direct, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, strength and mind, and love your neighbour as yourself." This was His tagline; His primary message. More importantly, His life was evidence of a loving God. Because of this, very broken, sin-soaked people found their way to His door.
Why Him and not us?
The answer may have something to do with the way we do (or don't do) discipleship. The training Jesus offered His disciples was designed to increase their love for God and their capacity to love others. As the disciples spent time with Jesus they saw Him spend time alone with God, the source of His transforming love. In daily life situations, they learned how to love those who were needy, contentious, broken, sinful or self-righteous (the most difficult kind). The core curriculum in Jesus' discipleship school was learning how to love.
In our community, Tina was someone who had learned to love like Jesus. One night, the police found a woman walking down a lonely stretch of highway with torn clothes and bruises over her body. She was crying and filled with fear. They offered her a ride, but she refused. Her experience had led her to fear even those who were offering to help. She finally climbed into the car on one condition: "Promise you will take me to Tina's place."
Tina had experienced brokenness herself. Her husband had a drinking problem. She knew what it was like to be afraid. She had come to know the love of Jesus, a love that transformed her life. Tina was a woman who could love anyone; without being judgmental, without condemnation, simply wrapping them in her arms of love. Her reputation was known among the broken and the lonely. They knew they could go to her door and be loved.
The love of Jesus is always invitational. When Jesus says, "Come follow me," it is an invitation to be loved, and to become a disciple who learns to live like Jesus and love like Jesus. Each one of us needs to be more like Tina, who was more like Jesus.
Jesus lovingly took me, with my sin-soaked life, into the circle of his love and grace. When I realize that I have been forgiven much, extending love and grace to others becomes a step I am willing to take. His love enables me to say "God loves you" through my words and actions. When "followers of Jesus" become known for their unconditional love, the world will take notice.
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