All you need is love. So why is it so hard? I have been part of dialogs between friends, on line, on blogs, etc. where the tensions rise and accusations are hurled. In the middle of a heated discussion, someone will call people to love. Another will say "love the sinner, hate the sin." And then someone will ask, "how can we love someone who is in opposition to Scripture?" And yet another will state, "we cannot condone this lifestyle or these actions, or this sin. Christianity is not a feel good, hippie religion." Why is love so difficult? When Christ says "love your enemies," what did he mean?
I think part of the problem is our English.
I love ice cream. So obviously, when ice cream is served I am going to partake.
I love hockey. So obviously, I condone hockey games.
I love my sister. I accept her.
We use the term love for silly, temporary things and for deep, eternal matters. Our culture portrays another version of love which a highly sexual one. And so our understanding of love is blurred in our culture and by our language.
But the Greek, which the New Testament was written in, has more than one term for love. I am going to focus on the term agape, the love of God in the Septuagint and the New Testament, because we are to love others as Christ has loved us. It is the agape love we are to show.
I have often heard preachers discuss how agape love is the unconditional love. When I was in seminary, I did a word study through Kittle's Theological Dictionary on the term agape. Kittle looks at each word in the New Testament in the context of the culture--how did the Greek people in history and the contemporaries of Jesus use the word, in the context of the Septuagint and the Old Testament (the Jewish translators chose specific Greek words for specific Hebrew and Aramaic words when they translated), and in the context of the New Testament--how has the author of the Scripture used the term in other places or other NT authors used the term. I found the term agape is more than just unconditional love. The Jewish translators used the term agape for the love of God or the Hesed in the Septuagint because it is a choice love. While the other terms for love in Greek mean affection or brotherly love, agape denotes choice. God chose Israel out of all the other nations to love. God chose to love Israel, even though they turned from God, God chose them, loved them, and used them to bring the Messiah.
So how do we love people we disagree with theologically, politically, socially? Its a choice! We choose to love first whether the person will agree with us or disagree. We choose love before we know where they stand. Rachel Held Evans had an interesting post on the subject of disagreeing theologically with people: http://rachelheldevans.com/guest-post-david-nilsen Choosing to love is to give people the benefit of the doubt and allow them to voice their view. That will be a discussion for the next post.