Jesus loved some lepers. Lepers were thought to be cursed by God. Leprosy was disgusting. Rotting flesh. Highly contagious. Jesus embraced lepers. Physically. Emotionally. Spiritually.
Jesus loved Samaritans. Samaritans were despised. They were Jews who had relocated and diluted their faith. They had lost their religious and cultural purity. Jesus chose to lift up the Samaritans to the pure Jews. He told the religious establishment they should try hard to be more like the Samaritans.
Jesus loved Mary Magdalene. She was a loose woman. She had a terrible reputation. Men of this age were raised to think of women as objects, of less value than livestock, and women of Mary Magdalene’s kind – well, as the presence of an absence.
Jesus loved the tax collectors. These were servants of the Roman Empire. Major players in the oppression of the Jews. Symbols of their loss of freedom. A flashing neon sign of being owned.
Jesus loved the poor. The outcasts. The downtrodden and forgotten. The folks the world looked upon with disdain, Jesus saw with incessant compassion. The world blamed these folks for being lazy losers who made their own bed, and now needed to lie in it. Jesus crawled in the bed with them.
Jesus, on the cross, loved the very people who had nailed him there. He loved them enough to forgive them. He also chose to love the crook at his side. A guy without honor or faith of any kind. He promised this scum bucket a place in heaven.
Jesus loved sinners. Liars and cheats. Scoundrels of every size and shape and color. Flops and failures. The flawed and infamous. Those whose mistakes defined their character. Addicts and abusers. Thieves and killers – like Moses. He even seemed to enjoy folks of diverse races, religion, and opinion.
Jesus loved his enemies. By the looks of things, he had more than a few. He looked upon those who persecuted him, mocked him, ridiculed him, with a shocking blend of mercy and care.
In this regard, we would call him a bleeding heart liberal. The folks of his time thought him to be a faithful conservative.
Isn’t it amazing, how in a culture which often brags about being Christian, we so seldom see the kind of love Jesus named and claimed on a daily basis.
So many excuses why we cannot love him or her or them. So many reasons why we cannot compromise our precious values. So many factors which force us to build walls and draw dividing lines.
Even in the church. We will love one another if we agree and declare a cloned faith. We still often resist forgiving as if it were the plague. We want a church that is popular. A cross-less church. A feel good church. A no think church. A church where discipleship is nothing more than radical niceness.
What is my point? Well, I guess I have tried to give this point a cutting edge. I just hope we will consider how truly tough it is to follow Jesus. How difficult the demand to love and forgive as he did. He set the bar pretty high. High as the cross.
Reverend William R. Grimbol has spent the past 30+ years helping people create and develop strong spiritual connections with loved ones and God. He is also a published author, with over a dozen books to his credit.