Change, Eternity, Grace, Marriage

Change: Love God, Love Others

 

Change word signBy +Jeanne Takenaka @JeanneTakenaka

***This is not my normal style of blog post. I had planned to post my third blog about perfection and good enough, and I will . . . next week. This week, I’m wrestling with all that’s happened in our country. So, I thought we could wrestle with it together. I’d love to hear your thoughts at the end of this post.*** 

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I have a confession to make. I struggle with the thought of being just one person. Just one Christian. For years, this struggle has left me in a place where I figured I can’t change the world, so I’ll focus on living the best Christian life I can. And I’ll ignore . . . not ignore, exactly . . . pray, but keep myself distanced from the world and all that is espouses.

Crown Cross Stone

Over the past couple weeks, this mindset has been deeply challenged. First with the shooting of nine people at Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church  in Charleston, and secondly, with the ruling the Supreme Court made on the definition of marriage last week.

Can I be honest? God’s shown me I have a hard heart. I was definitely grieved when I heard about the tragedy in Charleston. My heart ached for the families and friends who lost a loved one via a bullet from Dylann Roof. I did cry some tears, once the news settled into my spirit. But my first (and short-lived) impression was, “It’s another shooting.” Shame on me, for having this kind of a heart.

Couple on the dock

When I read about the Supreme Court’s ruling on Friday, my first response was cynical. It’s the direction our country’s been moving in for years. One person can’t change a culture. What could I—one stay-at-home-mother—have done from my home in Colorado? Nothing.

Or could I?

As I’ve considered this question over the weekend, I’m convicted by my puny mindset. Yes, I am only one person, but could I have done more to change the outcome of the shooting? To alter the ruling of the highest court in our nation?

Scissors balancing

Is this the twilight of Christianity in our country? Is it really too late to do anything? To change what’s happening in America?

I don’t think so.

Over the weekend, our pastor shared a message that dared me to think about what I—and all of us who call ourselves Christians—can do now. Very simply stated, we need to love God first, and love others. I am still processing the truths I came away with from his message.

Solo sea shell

LOVE GOD

What does this look like for us? I believe each person needs to come before the Lord and ask Him if they have allowed other things to become god in their lives.

God will work most effectively through us when we are humbled and repentant before Him. It’s only when we admit that we are sinners that we can be relatable to those who don’t yet know Him. That we can truly know the forgiveness of God. And share God’s forgiveness with others.

Worship silhouette

We need to seek Jesus’ presence, not pray to be delivered from our culture, from “bad judges” or people who believe contrary to ourselves.

We seek Him through reading His word.

Through prayer.

Through worshiping Him.

And then, through serving and reaching out to others.

Hands held 1

I suspect I’m not the only one with the cynical attitude about where our culture is heading. I’m disturbed about how hard my heart has become. Not toward people in my circle of influence. But toward the movers and shakers in our country? Our leaders? Toward all the too-big tragedies that I can’t prevent? Yes (I’m hanging my head), I’ve become a cynic without realizing it.

I’m praying for a softer heart. Because if God is going to use me to change anything, I have to have a heart that’s soft toward Him and tender toward others. I must have eyes that see others like God does. To have a heart like Jesus’ toward people with whom I disagree. I can only have this as I seek Jesus first. As I keep Him as the most important relationship in my life. As I yearn for His presence.

In His presence, I can’t condemn others for what they believe and do. But, I can learn to love them.

LOVE OTHERS

As believers we’re called to love others. Jesus didn’t say only love your friends, the people you get along with. He told us to love our enemies, which includes those with whom we disagree.

Heart in tree

No lie, this is hard.

What does this sort of loving others look like? It’s going to look different for each of us, but the basics will fall somewhere along these lines. Instead of judging others for lifestyle choices, what if we seek to build relationships with them? What if, through engaging with them with Jesus’ heart, we’re eventually able to share about Jesus with them?

Instead of looking down on people who believe differently from us, what if we were to open conversation and express acceptance of who they are as people? When acceptance is felt, openness begins.

Window reflection

Hazy sun tree silhouette

Showing grace instead of condemnation will bring about slow, but real change. No, it probably won’t change the laws of our land. But if we’re seeking and loving God first, and loving others with His love, imagine how the eternal landscape of our country can change.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts about all of this.

What about you? How do you seek God first? What are your thoughts about being one person who can help in changing our culture?

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17 thoughts on “Change: Love God, Love Others”

  1. Guess I’ll be blunt. I love God by loving the least of His kids, and I love the least of His kids by being proficient in the skills needed for their defense. My world has narrowed, but the skills and the viewpoint – through Leupold optics – remain. Anyone who harms those who touch my heart WILL be loved in their sin.

    Loved to death.

    Jesus not only loved – He was willing to name evil when He saw it, and WWJD includes overturning tables, scattering merchandise, and chasing people with a whip.

    And Jesus was no hermit; He engaged the world. We have to vote our values, and speak up to make clear exactly what those values are. We have the right to that, in this country, and we need to exercise it, by supporting candidates whose views are most closely allied with our own, by volunteering to help their campaigns, and by running for office ourselves.

    What we cannot do, what condemns our children to the fire, is to sit back and say, “Come quickly, Jesus!”, our arms folded and our hearts not only hardened, but ossified.

    If we’re His hands and feet, we’re not just supposed to be wringing those hands, and shuffling those feet in indecision.

    A hand can be outstretched in help, or it can be a fist, and He KNOWS that. There is a time for one, and a time for the other. We have to accept that dichotomy.

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    1. Yes, Andrew. We do what we are able to do (voting, being actively involved in campaigning for those who support our values, and the other suggestions you made). And I totally agree, loving also requires speaking truth. Thank you for filling out some of what my post didn’t quite cover. Your thoughts are always enriching!

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    1. Thanks, Sondra. It’s so easy to forget in our “can-do” culture. We need to remember Who makes us able, and seek Him out. Then we need to go out and love like He does. I appreciate you stopping by!

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  2. Eloquent response Andrew, and right on. Yet I add to that as a prayer warrior, we need to be gathering together to fight the battle in the spirit world as well as the natural. 2 Chronicles 7:14 speaks God’s heart on this matter. Breaking the Silence Conference in the Springs July 12-15 will speak to pastors and why they need to be preaching the truth. Urge your pastor to attend! God is still in control! All is not lost, but we must draw closer to God, listen to Him, and stand for righteousness. Love is the key for winning the lost, and this IS the harvest time.

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    1. Mom, thanks for highlighting the necessity of prayer. We need to love, but we also need to remember there is a spiritual battle. And the most effective way we fight is on our knees. Appreciate you sharing this.

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  3. You’ve handled these words with such delicacy and grace, Jeanne. Well done.

    It’s difficult to not become jaded or feel utterly ineffective in a world that seems to have gone awry. I think more than anything, I’m leaning in to the fact that God is on the throne. He rules and He reigns. Is He pleased with the tide of compromise and acceptance – I don’t think so, but He can use all things to bring about His plan. We’ve seen Him harden the hearts of kings for His purpose before.

    My heart though is certainly turned towards grace, now more than ever. I realize that we live in a fallen world, with lost people, who have been spoon fed “happiness” as the solution to all their problems. “Do what makes you happy,” is so contrary to what God want’s for us – He want’s us pursuing truth and speaking it – standing fast in faith while we love those around us. That’s what He did and in my little slice of the world, its what I try to do. To smile at someone who needs it, listen when no one else will, and not be ashamed of the gospel, which in this time and place isn’t always easy to do. It seems small, but it’s steady and its for Him. Thank you for sharing your heart and for provoking us to think on what we can do to begin change.

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    1. Tiffany, you have a way of deepening a conversation with your words. We do tend to think we should be happy. It’s what we have been fed for generations. God wants our holiness before our happiness, and He wants our hearts first of all. I love how you live out love in your every day life. I try to do that too. I always appreciate when you stop by!

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  4. Several years ago my daughter who is a teacher was invited by another teacher to a gathering in Chicago. This teacher is a gay man and he lived in what they refer to as “Boys Town.” The Gay Pride Parade was also taking place that weekend and the city was full of visitors. My daughter never concealed or compromised her Christian beliefs and this man knew her biblical stance on homosexuality. She’s a caring person who shares life, even with those who hold different opinions, but she is also very willing to speak about her faith. It was hot that day and the group she was with stopped at a small store to buy some water. Outside the door sat a homeless man who few people paid attention to. When my daughter and her friends exited the store she quietly handed the homeless man a bottle of water. As she walked on she overheard her gay friend tell his companion, “She’s the real deal.” I think our seeking God by simply being an example of Christ’s love may be one of the best ways to begin the dialog about our faith.

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    1. Gene, your story moved me; I’ve been thinking about it all day. Your daughter exemplified what all Christians should be living out—faith lived out, consistently, graciously. Not in-your-face. Her actions spoke the gospel to the people she hung around with. I think you’re right—”our seeking God by simply being an example of Christ’s love may be one of the best ways to begin the dialog about our faith.”

      Thank you for sharing this, Gene.

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  5. Yep! I guess the message (for me) of the Bible and Jesus’ teaching is loud: Love your neighbor. That’s it. Our family has gone through a lot of processing and for the past almost-6 years we’ve attended an “inclusive” church. I can’t imagine going anywhere else…. It’s not my journey at all, but it has taught me so much about what other Christians go through in the face of judgement and discrimination. Thank you for your honesty and gracious words. Hopefully we continue to grapple – that’s how we learn from each other.

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    1. Annie, I was hoping you’d share a bit here. 🙂 We do have to grapple with how to love well. And with truth. And with grace. And, it’s hard. But this issue gives us such opportunity to really ponder what this should look like.
      Thanks for stopping by!

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