As a Christian, I have been taught since I was a little kid that the greatest commandment was 'LOVE'. Love God with your whole being and love your neighbor as yourself. How has this simple rule been so badly kept? At my church this weekend, a very startling poll result was given to us. When a large group of Americans were asked what word first came to mind when thinking of religion, love was not even on the list of 15 words. It WASN'T EVEN ON THE LIST, our single greatest commandment did not make the list. What a failure.
It set me back and made me think, how can this be possible, what is the reason(s). I realize that I AM part of the problem also, I do NOT give myself a pass on this in anyway so this whole article is aimed at me as much as anyone else. As I started looking back at the specific teachings, examples and expectations that I have seen or experienced a few ideas began to form. First, Christians (in the major branches I have been a part of are at War. How can we love people when we have been taught that we are at war with them. How can we love people who, we have been told, 'are out to get us'. We have to pull together and protect ourselves from all the bad stuff out there. Be set apart from the world as it were. We begin viewing non-Christians as possible sources of temptation, gateways to sin even. We don't dare truly be a part of the world, we have to be 'set apart' from the world. Much like when a herd forms up to protect itself from the lions, anyone on the outside is left to their own devices and when they fall we can sadly shake our heads and think, "they would have made it if they had been in the herd." That is not love--it is not love if someone has to come to you to get it. Love is given, it is given to you wherever you are, whoever you are AND whatever you have done. We can be so busy defending ourselves from sin, or temptation that we begin looking at people AS being sin or temptation.
Here is another example; men in ministry or in Christian companies will have rules that they cannot be alone with women. No meetings alone with a woman, no slightest possibility of the hint of impropriety with a woman, just stay away. With this kind of attitude, how can you have women in leadership at this company or church? How can you even view women as people? They become vessels of sin or gateways to sin or some other THING. It is dehumanizing for them. I know a professional woman that was helping organize a conference that included churches and Christian led companies. She found out that a colleague was flying in to the city for the conference and was going to take a cab on to the convention area. Her offer to pick him up and get him to the hotel he was staying at was met with serious hesitation. Not by the man needing the ride but by one of his superiors. They had to take into consideration the possibility that someone thought it improper for a woman to be alone with a man in a car. This woman, feeling slightly insulted, I might add is somehow, not a professional but a gateway to sin, whether she wants to be or not. So this herd was made up of males and this woman was suddenly a lion prowling around looking for the weakest one in the herd. How absurd.
We MUST change how we treat everyone, how we view EVERYONE. There cannot be a 'them' and an 'us' if Love is our goal, there can only be an us. I challenge all of us to enlarge our circle of us. Not to view each other by race, sexual orientation or political persuasion. We need to view each other as people, fallible, infuriating and needing love. If we change how we view others in our own hearts it will change how we treat them and maybe one day Love can break the top 15 on the list.