Photo from flickr by Hernán Piñera (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Why the world doesn’t believe in Christian love

"And it’s something we as the Church in North America have yet to learn, too."

It’s the second hug, and he still smells like a baby, my three-year-old with the soft cheeks. As I lean in, he says, “Mommy, I love everything. I love the air, the colours, girls, Daddy, Mommy, Aiden; I love the sky and the doors and all of the shapes. Mommy, I love so much.”

I look at him, my Kasher, my courageous warrior, whose little arms wrap fierce around my neck and I see the Father’s heart beating large in him.

Kasher is a feeler.

What he doesn’t know yet is love is not a feeling. It’s an action.

And it’s something we as the Church in North America have yet to learn, too.

We’re a pretty self-obsessed bunch. We have self-help books piled to the ceiling and we go to therapy and pat each other on the back and like each other’s posts and figure that once we feel love towards ourselves, THEN we’ll begin to make a difference in the world. THEN we’ll begin to love our neighbour.

What we don’t realize is that we already DO love ourselves.

Sure, it might not be the fuzzy kind. It might not be the pink bunny slippers kind of love they make songs about. Instead it’s the practical, agape kind of love Jesus taught to His disciples.

It’s the kind of love that would not go a whole day without getting dressed or without feeding oneself or without sleep. It’s the kind of love that takes care of these basic necessities because when it comes down to it, whether you have low self-esteem or high self-esteem the majority of us make sure we have some form of shelter every night and some form of meal during the day and we’re not running around naked.

This is love—this taking care of the essentials. And it’s the same kind of love we’re supposed to have for our neighbours. The kind that says, “I may not feel fuzzy warm love for you, but I cannot stand watching you not be able to afford to eat or clothe yourself or have shelter over your head because everyone deserves that.”

“Love your neighbour as yourself.”

It’s one of the two most important commandments. And we don’t get it. We’re letting our neighbours starve to death—21,000 people die every day of a hunger-related problem—while we read our self-help books and spend thousands on therapists and try diet after diet, hoping to find the “sweet spot” of Christian love.

There is no sweet spot. Christian love is not pretty. It’s messy.

It doesn’t love because it feels good. It loves because it’s the right thing to do. Christian love picks up its cross and dies daily to itself because until the world has no more mothers weeping into their dirt floor each night as they listen to their babies’ tummies growl; until the world has no more drug addicts sitting homeless on the streets and child labourers in factories and child soldiers in the bush; until the world has no more orphans, we cannot stop being Christ.

We cannot stop feeding and clothing and sheltering others. If we do, we’re not obeying the gospel. And if we don’t obey the gospel, we’re missing it all. We’ll be the ones Jesus looks at and says, “I don’t know you. Where were you when I was hungry or thirsty or naked?”

Where were you when the world was crying out to meet its Saviour?

Emily T. Wierenga is a pastor’s daughter. She’s an award-winning journalist, blogger, commissioned artist and columnist, as well as the author of five books including the memoirs Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look and Making It Home: Finding my way to peace, identity and purpose (Baker Books, September 2015).

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  • J Arthur Peters

    Beautifully said, Emily.

  • Mary

    To the point!