All You Need is Love

Love is all you need. It’s just too bad Christians don’t understand this simple concept. Christians have become the most unloving, unaccepting, intolerable people in the world.

Obviously, I don’t mean all Christians. Many Christians are amazing Christ-serving people who live for Him. But those are not the people who have shaped the world’s perception of the followers of Jesus Christ.

The late Christian author, Brennan Manning, once wrote one of the most profound things ever written…

“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”

But here’s the thing: It’s not because Christians are hypocrites; it’s not because Christians are superficial; it’s not because Christians are holier-than-thou — Christians simply refuse to love.

In order to be a devout believer in Jesus Christ, “Love is all you need.”

Christians are meant to show love by the example they live, not the words they shout. The Bible is very clear on this. Matthew 5:16 says, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Christians are instructed by scripture to let their lives be living examples of Christ’s love, not their constant condescending and belittling words. Moreover, this is not one of the disciples or prophets writing this; these are the words of Jesus Christ himself. Let your light shine; don’t shine your light in the faces of others.

A Christian’s faith should be that of a candle or a lantern, illuminating the world around. A Christian’s faith is not a flashlight or a spotlight, narrowly revealing the faults of others and blinding the eyes of those without Faith. Because what is the first thing a person does when a bright light is shined in their eyes? They turn away.

This is what is happening with contemporary Christianity. People are being turned off and driven away from Christianity as a result of the arrogant and hateful words of many Christians. I’ve seen a bumper sticker on numerous occasions which reads, “Dear God, protect me from your followers.” And yet, as a Christian, I completely understand why this bumper sticker exists.

Many Christians do not display their Faith as an avenue to help, encourage, and love people. Instead, they display their Faith by looking back over their shoulder during the race of their lives, arrogantly glaring at those behind, making sure they know who is better. So why are Christians shocked when the “unbelieving world” respond with discontent? When Christians would rather shine their light in unbelieving faces rather than letting their light illuminate the unbelieving world, why do they not understand the world’s rejection of Jesus?

Christianity is about three things: Faith, Grace, and Forgiveness. If a Christian can grasp these three concepts and apply them to their daily race through life, there will be many more people who will be willing to run next to them rather than wanting to pass them out of anger and spite.

Why would Christians rather look over their shoulder at someone instead of running next to them? Why do Christians seem to thrive on a sense of superiority when the bedrock of the Christian faith is the confession and forgiveness of sin and imperfection?
An arrogant Christian is no Christian at all.

Christians ridicule sin in others like they have no sin themselves. Christians don’t seem to use Jesus to love one another; Christians seem to use Jesus to beat others down.

After I was released from prison, I was contacted by a guy I met during my incarceration. He moved to Atlanta after his release and moved in with his parents until he could find a job and a place of his own. Oh, and after his release, he had to register as a sex offender.

Not long after he moved in and his information was posted on the Georgia Sex Offender Registry, an anonymous letter was left on his front door:

HaterLetterPart1

HaterLetterPart2

A few things about the contents of this letter:

  • She underlined “convicted,” as if there was another type of sex offender.
  • There is no reason for a Christian to say someone is “not welcome.” Christianity welcomes all people, no matter what sin they’ve committed.
  • “GA400” is a highway. She wanted him to go walking on the highway. i.e.— she wanted him dead.
  • Not only does she shame him for his sin, she also shames his parents for having unconditional love for their son.
  • “Hope you find Jesus & get help.” Would Jesus Christ himself have written a letter like this? From everything I’ve read in the Bible (and I’ve read it cover-to-cover), I’d have to say NO.

It’s that last line which really gets me. At the end of a letter full of hate against someone she has never met, she decided to tell him she hopes he finds Jesus. But here’s the thing about Daniel: I have met very few people who displayed more authentic Christianity than him. His crime — the crime resulting in his registration as a sex offender — was an online sting involving a middle-aged police detective posing as someone else. Daniel never actually hurt an actual person.

Furthermore, this paranoid letter completely ignores several irrefutable statistical facts:

  • According to the United States Bureau of Justice Statistics, 95% of sex crimes are committed by someone who is not a registered sex offender.
  • According to the United States Bureau of Justice Statistics, 95% of registered sex offenders never commit another sex crime again, ever.
  • On the television show “To Catch a Predator,” authorities involved in the filming arrested a total of 229 people who sought to meet an underage person online. Of those 229, only four were registered sex offenders.
  • The recidivism rate of sex crimes ranges from 3.5% to 4.3%. Registered sex offenders have the lowest recidivism rates when compared to assault, DUI, robbery, theft, drug offenses, battery, and domestic violence. Those crimes have recidivism rates ranging anywhere between 40% and 70%. The only crime with a lower recidivism rate is murder.
  • Less than half of sex crimes in the United States are against someone under the age of twelve.

However, facts and reality aside, it is the commanded responsibility of every Christian to forgive anything anyone has ever done. Period. This may seem drastic, but it’s Scriptural Truth. The discretions, mistakes, and destructive choices of a person’s past cannot — according to Jesus Christ — be held against them by a Christian.

Matthew 6:14-15 says:

In prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do. You can’t get forgiveness from God, for instance, without also forgiving others. If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God’s part. (MSG)

Essentially, if a Christian is not willing to forgive the sins of others, he/she cannot be forgiven. It does not matter how severe the sin, it should be forgiven because (according to scripture ) no sin is worse in God’s eyes than any other.

GOD FORGAVE:

  • DAVID: Murderer, Adulterer, Liar, Deceiver.
  • PAUL (Formerly “Saul”): Murderer, Persecutor, Liar
  • PETER: Liar, Denier of Jesus, Violent Assault
  • RAHAB: Adulterer, Prostitute
  • MARY MAGDALENE: Adulterer, Prostitute
  • NOAH: Drunk
  • ABRAHAM: Adulterer
  • SAMSON: Committed Suicide
  • SOLOMON: Adulterer (1,000+ times)

If God is willing to forgive these sins, why are Christians unwilling to do the same? Any Christian who refuses to forgive sin is essentially saying they are more righteous than God.

It’s interesting to observe because many of the people who appear to profess the deepest love for God and Jesus Christ are the same people who are the least forgiving and most judgmental.

This, as Brennan Manning said, is the leading cause of Atheism in the world today.

Christianity in contemporary America is so far removed from the intentions of Jesus, He wouldn’t even recognize it if He walked with us today.

What if Christians loved everyone, regardless of their sin?

Seriously. Jesus never told anyone they were evil or terrible (except Satan, of course — but that’s a given). He told people they were wrong, but also told them how to be right. He did not condemn people for their sin, He showed them how to move forward in spite of sin, walking in His Light.

Christianity is not a religion. Religion is merely a system of traditions and rituals based on following rules, guidelines, and procedures. There’s no “faith” in religion. Christianity is simply about belief, faith, and hope. If a person genuinely believes that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, believes He died for the sins of mankind, and He will return for His people in the Last Days, then he/she is saved. It’s that simple.

If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.

Romans 10:9-10 (NLT)

Going to church is not a requirement to be a Christian.

“Sitting in church doesn’t make you a Christian; just like sitting in a garage doesn’t make you a car.”

Being a Christian isn’t about what you do in church on Sunday — being a Christian is about what you do from Monday thru Saturday, either living as an image of Christ or assimilating with the faithlessness of the world.

Contemporary Christianity has become stagnant because with all the evil in the world, people are using their faith to condemn others rather than using their faith to love and help others.

One of the paramount journeys in my faith has been the journey toward forgiveness — not being forgiven (because I have no control over that), but rather, forgiving those who hurt me. Subsequently, the longest and most difficult journey has been the forgiveness of the person who sexually assaulted me in 1998.

It’s difficult to recollect those events (as much as I can clearly remember) and still be able to find forgiveness in my heart. According to numerous therapists over the years, being sexually assaulted (by a man, no less) was the predicating event which led to my promiscuity in college, beyond college, and eventually contributed to the cognitive distortions leading to my most destructive choice as a teacher.

Regardless of that, I forgive him. It is more difficult to forgive someone than it is to hold a grudge.

How many people in life have unapologetically hurt you? What if that person wants to apologize, but for one reason or another, they can’t? What if you approached that person and told them you did not hold their actions against them? I did this, and it immediately prompted his apology.

Approaching someone and telling them you did not hold their actions against them — it’s a way of telling them you forgive them without using those words. And it also gives the person a chance to put aside their pride.

Forgiving someone does not mean you’re “over it” or that you’re not upset about whatever happened. Sometimes forgiveness is a beginning rather than an end.

My favorite Christian musician is Matthew West. He has a song called “Forgiveness” which illustrates this concept perfectly. Here’s how he puts it:

  • Forgiveness is “the hardest thing to give away.
  • Forgiveness “always goes to those who don’t deserve it.”
  • Forgiveness is “the opposite of how you feel.”
  • Forgiveness “flies in the face of all your pride.”
  • Forgiveness is “always anger’s own worst enemy.”
  • Forgiveness is “the whisper in your ear saying set it free.”
  • “…the prisoner it really frees is you.”

Here’s the thing this song taught me: Holding a grudge doesn’t hurt the person who wronged me. The only person the grudge hurts is me.

Essentially, being angry at someone doesn’t hurt that person; being angry steals the joy of the angry person. Thus, you become a prisoner of your own resentment toward someone else. Forgiveness frees you of that.

Forgiveness lifts the weight of anger and replaces it with peace, love, and acceptance.

God forgives sin, no matter the severity. Why can’t we? Why do Christians refuse to forgive others by using their faith to perpetuate their own misconceptions and discontent? If Christ is willing to forgive others, why aren’t we? Are we saying we’re more righteous than Jesus by not forgiving those who He is willing to forgive?

Think about that for a moment.

On the cross, Jesus Christ literally asked His Father to forgive the men who were in the process of killing him.

Think about that for a moment.

Saul (who eventually became Paul) was actively killing Christians. Then he met Jesus.

Jesus forgave him for murdering His followers; this forgiveness changed Saul’s life.

Think about that for a moment.

Why do we have higher standards for forgiveness than Jesus? I forgave the man who raped me because Jesus forgave the men who killed him. So when I was I suddenly stood in front of the guy who shoved me on the track, likely costing us a gold medal, I extended my hand and extended my forgiveness.

As a Christian, we are to extend forgiveness, even when no apology has been offered. Besides, how can we be forgiven by God if we refuse to forgive others?

As Jesus Himself put it:

If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Matthew 6:14-15 (NLT)

This concept is clearly stated by Jesus Christ himself. As difficult as it may seem, nothing has ever been done to us which we do not possess the capacity to forgive. When I was 18-years-old, I was raped. And I forgive him. Of course, the pain lingers and the impact is ever-present; but as a Christian, I choose to forgive him.

There is no statute of limitations on forcible rape. I could walk into a police station right, fill out a report, provide the details, and he would likely be arrested (or, at the very least, questioned intently by law enforcement). But I will not do that. It would solve nothing. I’m sure he is a different person today than he was in 1998. I have no personal knowledge of how he feels about what he did, and I really don’t care. It is not my place to address his sins — that between him and God. It is not my place to condemn him for what he did to me — that is between him and God. The only thing that is within my power is my willingness to forgive him.

If I can forgive the man who raped me, who in your life do you need to forgive?

Forgiving someone does not mean you’re still not upset about whatever happened.

Forgiveness means you’re willing to move forward with the healing process.

Who do you need to forgive today?
Who do you need to love today?

All you need is love.
Love is all you need.

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