Letters to Little: Gospel-Centered Love

Letters to Little: Gospel-Centered Love

Dearest Little,

One day, you’re going to be able to formulate beliefs and opinions about God, about the world around you, and about the people within it. One day, you’re going to ask Mommy and Daddy a lot of questions about those three topics and knowing you, you won’t miss a thing. So here’s what I want you to always remember.

Every one (really every single person) struggles with sin and no sin is greater than another. Sin is anything that hurts God’s heart. It separates us from relationship with Him because He is perfect. That’s why each and every person needs Jesus because Jesus did what we couldn’t do for ourselves to bring us back into relationship with God. Jesus took the full weight of our past, present, and future screw ups and nailed it to the cross with Him, then conquered the consequence of sin (death) by rising from the dead. So we’re all on the same playing field; God doesn’t see my sin differently than He sees Daddy’s sin. Most importantly, when you have a relationship with Jesus, God doesn’t see your sin at all. He just sees Jesus.

We talk about this a lot, me and you. It’s important because if you lose sight of that truth it’s easy to begin to judge other people, thinking their sin is worse than your own. Pretty soon, it’s easy to find yourself thinking that your sin isn’t so sinful in light of their sin, and that’s when you lose sight of the beauty of the Gospel and what it means to love others in the way Jesus commanded us.

Loving others is something that gets talked about a lot. For some, loving others means that you have to agree with them on every front and be best friends. For others, loving others means you play nicely in your corner and let them play nicely in theirs with the mutual understanding that you’ll never engage with them. Neither of those definitions are what Jesus meant when He commanded us to love others as we love ourselves, nor are they the examples of love that He demonstrated for us to follow.

Jesus loved in the messy way. He engaged with people as they were, where they were, and lovingly called them to follow Him. He didn’t condone their behavior, nor did He allow their behavior to prevent Him from interacting with them. This is massively missed in today’s culture. Jesus met their needs, listened to their requests, and loved people in practical ways, all the while inviting them to follow Him.

We see it with how He called Matthew, a tax collector who was seen as a liar, a cheat, a thief, and a traitor in the Jewish culture. Jesus didn’t dismiss Matthew because of his sin, He called Matthew to follow Him. Jesus’ engagement and invitation resulted in Matthew leaving his life of sin and following Jesus. Matthew went on to write the first Gospel to a Jewish audience, the same people he had once cheated.

We see it with the woman caught in the act of adultery. Jesus didn’t avoid the situation or turn a blind eye to her condemnation by religious leaders, nor did He berate her and condemn her, nor did He condone her behavior. Jesus simply asked a question that reminded the condemning crowd of their own sin. When the crowd dissipated, Jesus gently told the woman that He did not condemn her and called her to leave her life of sin. Remember, Jesus was perfect. If anyone had the right to condemn this woman, it was Him! However, Jesus understood that condemnation never leads to life nor freedom. Condemnation always ends in death, but genuine, Gospel-centered love will always lead to life.

To love others as Jesus has called us to will often feel awkward, messy, and unnatural because it often requires that we step outside of our comfort zone to engage with folks who are very different from us. What makes loving others with a Gospel-centered love so beautiful, is that as we engage with people who are different from us we see more of God’s image on display for the world. Every single person has been created in the image of God, and no two of us are the same. How cool is it that we get to see more of God’s character, personality, and design through the friendships and relationships we build with others? What’s more, every single person has been intentionally designed by God Himself. Can you imagine how special they are to Him, even if they don’t belief it to be so? Loving them is not only walking in obedience to Jesus, it’s honoring to both that person and to God by valuing that which He has made and loves.

Buddy, I wish I could tell you that Daddy and I get this whole loving others thing right all of the time, but we don’t. I wish I could tell you that Christians get it right all of the time, but they don’t. Unlike the religious leaders who, in a rare moment of clarity, understood Jesus’ statement to the adulterous woman, many of the religious leaders today have yet to grasp hold of it. It’s a big part of why there’s so much fear that drives how we interact with those who live differently than we do. Fear will always prevent you from loving others. Fear will cause you to make poor decisions and miss out on the beauty of the Gospel because (at its core) it denies the power of the Gospel. Hold fast to the Gospel, kiddo, and you’ll be able to love others the way that Jesus loves them because you realize how much He loves you.