What is Christianity?
LOVE. Christianity is many things but at its core, I believe, is love. Many of you may be scoffing at that word and already be tempted to stop reading, but don't let it scare you away! Usually, when we hear the word love we think about emotions, feelings, touchy-feely stuff. For some, such things are difficult to discuss or even consider. However, love is not limited to those things. It is also an action. (I'll get to that more in a bit.)
There are many misconceptions about Christianity, and the one thing that I want everyone (Christians and non-Christians alike) to know is that it is rooted in love. When I started going to church a few years ago, it took me about 8 months for everything to really sink in and to accept God into my life. A large hurdle was getting rid of the misconceptions I had in my head prior to attending church. I got rid of those false ideas and learned the truth by continuing to attend (even though I had doubts and was still unsure) and by asking questions and cracking open the Bible. I recall sitting at a Sunday service listening to the pastor's sermon and him speaking of kindness and love, as he often does. It was then that it hit me - "If this is all based on love, then how can it possibly be a bad thing to accept God into my life?" It was then that I made the decision to stop resisting and surrender my life to Christ. Did I fall on the floor and begin to wail? No. Could everyone in the congregation tell by looking at me that I had committed myself? No. Outwardly, it was not a dramatic event. But internally, I felt my heart being filled to near bursting with a sense of peace, joy, and love. That is the closest I can come to putting it into words - it's an indescribable feeling.
1 Corinthians 13:13 "And now these three remain: faith, hope, love. But the greatest of these is love."
1 Corinthians 13:2 "If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have faith that can move mountains, but do not I have love, I am nothing."
Those are some very powerful Bible verses about the importance of love. There are many different types of love, depending on the relationship you have with a person. But, you can also love someone you don't know on a personal level. You may be wondering how that's possible. Love can be expressed in endless ways. Physically, of course (hugs are great!), verbally, or even anonymously - to anyone, even a stranger. I believe encouragement is an act of love. A simple statement of appreciation, of thanks, a showing of solidarity - "I've been through that too." Along with encouragement, showing your support is also an act of love. Even if you may not understand what someone is going through (because they just aren't like you, darn it!), or you don't understand their goals and dreams, it is still important to show them your support and encouragement. For me, things like "I appreciate your time", a simple "Thank you", or "You should go for it" have really helped and encouraged me, and also made me feel like that person cares and loves me.
I remember when I was going through a difficult time in my life, and my daughter felt I should be angry at someone. She saw how I treated that person (with kindness) despite what had happened. One day she asked why I responded the way I did, meaning why was I still civilized towards them. My response was simple "Because, love."
Some people are easy to love. Others, not so much! I have someone in my life who is particularly difficult to love. At first, that person brought out the absolute worst in me. I surprised even myself at the bad thoughts I was having. Then I started to pray about it. I would simply ask God to help me love that person. And I also began to pray for that person. For them to develop a relationship with God since I know they are not a believer. It has helped me deal with this person in a healthier way. Does that mean it was easy? No! Does it mean everything is perfect now and we're best friends? No! I still find myself ducking into a bathroom at times and quietly saying a prayer to help me through it. But it's a start. Praying for someone is another way, and a more "discreet", albeit a powerful way to express your love.
1 Peter 4:8 "Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins."
For 11 years, I lived in an area of the U.S. where I was the minority and basically English was the second language. As far as the people, I enjoyed living there, getting to know them, learn a new culture, and make some friends. It was a very different environment than where I grew up. Something else that I had taken from that experience was a sense of solidarity with the human race. It amazes and saddens me how divided we are as a society today. I met all kinds of people, and I still meet a lot of different people at my job, and what I've realized is that we are all a lot alike. We are all in this together. That realization has helped me develop the love I have for all of my brothers and sisters in this world. You may have heard the phrase "brothers and sisters in Christ". While only believers are brothers and sisters IN Christ, we are ALL brothers and sisters UNDER Christ. God created us all. Whether you are a believer at my church or an inmate who doesn't know anything about God, you are my brother/sister. And I love you. And best of all, Jesus loves you. He loves each and every one of us.
Romans 8:39 "...neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
God has put it upon my heart to leave you with a final thought about love. This came to me just a few weeks ago, when I was just driving to work thinking about God. No man (or woman) will ever love you as much as God does. Now I just want you to think about that and reflect on that for a moment. Isn't that amazing?! Now, why is that? Because no human is perfect. So we need to stop expecting that magnitude of love from people. It is simply an impossible expectation. I feel a great need to direct that towards women, specifically. So I'm going to repeat it. No man will ever love you as much as God does. This should not make you sad or feel hopeless. My hope is that it brings you great joy and stirs a great desire in you to know God on a personal level and to live a life based on the glory of His love.
Romans 5:8 "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."