My message, unchanged for more than fifty years, is this: God loves you unconditionally, as you are and not as you should be, because nobody is as they should be. —Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel
The community of Jesus is supposed to be famous for one thing: love.
Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters. (Hebrews 13:1)
Keep on loving is two Greek words—meno—keep on, and philadelphia—loving. It’s a sibling kind of love and is intended to be deeper and different than a love between friends. As a command, meno is in the present tense, which means we are to love this way without end, continuously.
What an impossible task! Unless…we philadelphia by the Spirit’s power.
Our big question is: How do we live as grace people, committed to holiness, while engaged in our ever-shifting society? The first answer is that—today, always, and for all time—Jesus’ people love people.
Easy! After all, this command says, “brothers and sisters,” so surely it means we only have to love other believers—people who live like us and think like us.
That’s an unnecessary limitation. Philadelphia love is for all people and the church is commanded to be a loving community. This is sometimes difficult, but we have Christ, meaning we also have His perfect love. Therefore, the most beautiful love in the universe should be found among God’s people.
Instead, we’ve become enamored with the word acceptance. “Look at us! We’re accepting everyone!” And while acceptance is a major first step in loving someone, it’s not the destination. Think about it. If someone comes to me and says, “I’m in deep crisis and really hurting.” What sort of friend would I be to only respond with, “I’m sorry you’re hurting. I accept you in that crisis?” Jesus’ love doesn’t stop at acceptance.
Philadelphia love moves us—the ones that love—into an arena of sacrifice as we ask, “How can I care for you in the middle of this mess?”
This requires that we see others as more important than ourselves. It’s not intuitive; only Jesus can love this way through us. But He’s been doing it today, always, and for all time.
Jesus, love like this through me. Help me identify how to meet the needs of others in a way that is consistent with Your unchanging love for the world. Amen.