Do you preach love but practice hatred?

Matt. 22:37-39, “…You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  Do you love your neighbor as yourself?  Most people would have no difficulty understanding the words of Jesus.  It was not given to us by means of a parable and does not need some detailed study of the etymology (origin) of the words to decipher it.  We are to love God first and foremost, and then we are to love our fellow man as well.  In fact, we should love them as much as we love ourselves.  Again, pretty straightforward statement that should be pretty easy to follow.  One would think something so clear and concise would be relatively simple to put into practice, so why do some people have so much difficulty with it.

They sit in church every week or, if they do not attend regularly, read their Bibles and pray every day.  They hear sermons on loving each other and read it everywhere in the Bible, but when it comes to practicing what they have heard or read, they fail miserably.  This is not an indictment of every person in the church, but as a minister and a counselor, I have come across this more times than I ever thought I would have.  I once heard the following words from someone who attended the same church I did, “I do love my neighbor as myself, but only my neighbor.” Talk about missing the intent of the words of Christ.  Of course, it was only uttered as a cop-out for the hatred felt toward others, and it took three years to change the heart of that individual.

On another occasion, a gentleman came up to me with money for the youth in his hand.  We were on the way to take them to summer camp and really appreciated the gesture – until he put a stipulation of sorts on it.  He looked at me and then pointed to two of the kids.  “Are those two dating?” he asked. “No, I replied, they are just good friends.”  “Good!” he said, handing me the money.  I refused to take it.  I am sure every one of us has similar stories we could recount, but do we stand up to individuals when they act that way?  There is a show on a local television station called, “What would you do?”  They place actors in different scenarios and then use hidden cameras to see if members of the public will intervene to correct the situation.

If you have seen one of those episodes, I bet you had a big smile on your face when some brave soul stood up for the “victim,” but would you do the same?   That would probably be a good time to think about the WWJD acronym, “What would Jesus do?”  More importantly, are you someone who acts with such malice toward other individuals or groups?  Do you preach love but practice hatred?  What would it take to make you understand that your actions are heinous?  Does the very real and deserving threat of an eternity in hell not deter you from acting hatefully toward others?

And if you are one of the vast majority of Christians who loves your neighbor as yourself, thank you.  You are an encouragement, and your actions do not go unnoticed.  Your love for others may well be the primary factor that will turn the corrupt heart of a hateful person into a loving, kind, and considerate one.  Work with them.  Admonish them in love, pray for them, and study the Bible together.  That way, they can learn and understand that we are all the same in the eyes of Christ and therefore deserve the same love and respect.  “Gal. 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

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