“I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” –Isaiah 43:25
Want to know why I really stink at love all, serve all? I don’t have unconditional love. When I’m honest with myself, I’d probably conclude that I don’t really love everyone unconditionally. I say I love my children unconditionally and I am positive that I do and I hope none of them ever seriously challenge me on that. I will profess to love my parents, sister, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins unconditionally. Hopefully, none of them ever do anything so serious to challenge that claim either (or vice versa!). When it comes down to it, I probably don’t really unconditionally love all of my friends, even my best ones. I could say I do but would I forgive any hideous sin they commit against me or any of my loved ones?
This unconditional love is where God separates himself from us mere mortals. God can forgive anything up to rejection of Jesus as our Lord and saviour. Anything! We can break any of the commandments written in this blog or the Bible. We can lie, cheat, steal, rape or murder (but let’s not populate prisons, please). God forgives each sin. If one of my friends, family members or children would commit one of these acts against another person I love, could I expect to forgive? I honestly don’t want to know. I’m scared to know. God does it billions of times a day. Every sin we commit is a crime against God himself. He hates all of them equally. Not only are those sins forgiven, but according to Isaiah, they are forgotten. Now, let’s just say I like to think I can forgive but I challenge myself to forget.
I have a hard time forgetting things that simply get on my nerves, let alone egregious sins. While I feel I have made great strides in loving my neighbor as myself, my love is not nearly unconditional love. Yet, that is the love of God. He can look past our shortcomings. I harbor grudges. God is slow to anger. I lack self-control. Those are just a couple of the differences between a holy love and my worldly love.
So, the best way to love our neighbor as ourselves is to begin with forgiveness. First, let’s start with me. I want to be forgiven when I sin against those who are close to me, and I do sin way too often. I want my kids to forgive me when I yell at them unnecessarily. I also want them to forget so they don’t become terrified of me. Can I honestly say I do the same? I remember some hurtful sins committed against me and I’m sure others remember some of the dumb stuff I’ve done to hurt others. I’m like many humans, I still keep score. I don’t want to, but the scoreboard is in my head somewhere. I like to think that my love is growing but I find the forgiveness and forgetting thing a really hard part of my love for people. I’m so thankful that God doesn’t keep score. Could you imagine enough zeros on that scoreboard? Rob: 1 gazillion sins, God: zero.
So, if I can’t forgive then I tarnish my love for people and God. Love is the stem of the fruit of the Holy Spirit that holds us to our tree of the Holy Spirit. If that’s tarnished, I lose my ability to serve those God intended me to reach.
God didn’t call me to just serve those it’s easiest for me to love. Think of how simple in theory this would be if I just had to serve my wife, my children and all the other people in my life I consider close to me. Hell is being populated, though, as we speak by people of all walks of life and maybe even by some people close to me. Therefore, God calls me into service to him and for those people not going in the right direction. To be authentic in service, I have to love and not go through the motions. I have to put authentic acts behind my service. I may be able to fake it sometimes but if my fakeness sends a person to Hell, I am accountable. Jesus didn’t come to serve just those who loved him. His ultimate act of service, dying on the cross, was meant for everyone from then until he comes again. I can’t horde that act of service all to myself.
In Mark 10:45, Jesus said, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Only Jesus could be the ransom from sin so I know God is not calling me for that. I do know, though, that God called me to serve. He did not call me to go through the motions of serving. He commanded me to love one another as I love myself, and that’s a lot. I want to be forgiven by people and by God. I want to be loved by people and by God. I will need the service of God and I most likely will need some human service at some point. What you give is what you get by human standards. God has much higher standards. What we get from God is forgiveness. What we get from God is unconditional love. What we get from God is unmerited grace. What we need to do is populate Heaven, not Hell.