Radical Love

Sep 23, 2022 | Sports Friends Canada

As catastrophe and conflict have driven  millions to seek refuge away from their home countries, the multitude of foreigners continues to increase everywhere. Jesus told us to make disciples of all nations, and increasingly the nations have become our neighbors.

The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God. Leviticus 19:34

So how do we love our very-different neighbors as ourselves? What does it look like to show  Jesus’ love to the very-different? It looks a lot like His love for us: we are very-different from Him in our sin, distorted images bent toward self-centeredness. Jesus meets people where they are and through His love He brings them closer to Himself. 

Every nation and people group holds their own unique characteristics, cultures, systems, and quirks. When we see global diversity integrated into a single-minded community that loves and obeys Jesus, we will never cease rejoicing over the beauty, flavor, strength, generosity, and creativity of humanity. What a day that will be! At present, though, all of our nations’ and peoples’ splendor remains broken by sin’s devastating effect. All populations and places have suffered adversity and injustice, and all suffer the traumatic rift of separation from God. Now as we live, work, and play among those familiar or unfamiliar to us, we all bear a mutual longing for fulfillment. 

The desire to belong, to be seen and to be loved for who we are is something that we all share, despite our differences. The ache in our hearts for home, for family, for a significant role in a meaningful story, all of these demonstrate created purpose. Some cultures esteem loyalty to family and ancestors above all else, while some elevate dedicated religious tradition as the way for attaining one’s purpose in this life and the next. Some cultures glorify professional accomplishment or economic domination as personal success and a legacy worth leaving. We find  interdependence and collectivity as the standard to maintain  in certain populations, while independence and autonomy seem to crown another. Some faiths worship a different god for every season and need, while others simply hope to have found favor in the eyes of a mysterious higher power.   

Differences in worldview and value systems are entrenched far deeper than the barriers Jesus’ followers cross by embracing new language, food, geography, and clothing.  Even when we do not have to adjust our lifestyles to connect with those who are different from us, we must examine our own worldview and seek to understand theirs in order to love them well. Because as children we were all raised in our respective cultures, our identities are formed accordingly. These things become who we are, who we know ourselves to be, what defines success or failure as a human being. Deep-seated belief systems are not the random result of whim, nor often of well-informed choice. 

Our approach must be one of humility and  love. Love seeks not its own, is patient, and kind. Jesus loved us in the different-ness of our very sin. He did not come condemning us for misunderstanding Him (except toward those who claimed to understand Him based on their own cultural heritage, but who remained far from Him in heart – take heed!). He did not begin by pointing out flaws in our logic, the suspicion hindering our ability to trust, or the fact that our suffering is often the reaping of what we’ve sown. He met deeply-felt needs, embraced the isolated, shared meals, walked and talked with the curious. He did not shy away from the reprehensible, nor fear the unfamiliar. He loves to teach us to do the same. 

We have all been the foreigner and are still learning to live as citizens of a kingdom of light. We are all  completely dependent on Him  patiently and diligently loving and providing for us . We all need our worldview adjusted by the Spirit of Truth.  The first step towards loving our very-different neighbor as ourself is to realize that we are the same.