“I love everyone, but I don’t have to like them,” I overheard these words of a fellow member of a church I belonged to a few years ago. I was shocked! How can we love someone without liking them? We use the word love so much, and liking, too, that I think we skip over the deeper meaning of these words. In order to see other people as God sees them with love, we have to see the created image of God in each person in order to appreciate who they are. We have to know them well enough to know what they have lived through in their lives and how they have managed to get as far as they have. The synonyms for appreciation are valuing, treasuring, admiration, respect, regard, esteem, high opinion. In other words we realize the wholeness of the person before us, we acknowledge his or her challenges and choices, even if we don’t agree with them. We sit not in judgment for who they are but admiration for what they have done with their challenges and gifts and talents. Let us not be the first or last to throw stones at a sinner…
Once we have acknowledged another’s humanity and the image of God in them, then we see them as our equal, no matter what has gone on in their lives. To love, to honor, to appreciate, to love another as we love, honor, appreciate and love ourselves—that is Jesus’ 2nd Great Commandment. For we all stand before God equally as His creations, make in His image. Our maturity in Christ shows up in our ability to give our whole selves over to God in love and in how we treat all other people. No more looking good on the outside, but filled with anger and fear on the inside. No more seeing through the eyes of the ego, now only through God’s eyes. No longer seeking every good thing for ourselves, but seeking good for everyone.
Perhaps we can see that to get to this stage of the life lived in the mind of Christ, one must have resolved so many of our own issues, pain and suffering and egoism.
–We have to have come to an ownership of all that we are.
–We have to have come to a sense of gratitude for the life we’ve been given by God and all that we have enjoyed in it.
–We have to be grateful for all our companions along the way—parents, sibs, friends and fellow worshippers of God.
–We have to be at peace within ourselves through seeing our own pain and suffering, and everyone else’s, as an opportunity to grow into the person we were created to be. We have to be free of the past and the future, able to live in the present with God as our constant companion.
And then there is gratitude and purpose and fulfillment and oh, the great privilege of what we are being asked to do and to be in His name…. We are free of the influence of the world in us and over us. Free to be who we were created to be. Free of all worry and pain. Free of all guilt and shame. Free to live in the kingdom of God.
Do we even appreciate who God is to us and all that He has done for us? Do we even acknowledge His truth and ways of being and thinking and creating? Do we appreciate all that God is? His love and forgiveness of us? The grace and blessings that He showers on us every day whether we are aware of them or not?
Or are we still too captivated by the way we have always thought and been or by the way our church wants us to be and think? Are we still living in the world even as we think that our belief in Jesus Christ saves us from the world? Are we still working on our own agendas and ignoring God’s calls to us? What is the state of your soul? Is it totally given over to God? Or are you still hanging on to your own ways while you look pious and faithful on the outside?
We might remember that God sees what is true about us—the inside and outside of us. There is no fooling Him! It matters what your image of God is. Is your God punitive, just waiting to catch you doing something wrong? My image of God after growing up in a hell-fire-and-damnation church was that of a raven sitting on my shoulder just ready to zap me for every sin I committed. Or did you grow up in a church that talked about God’s love and forgiveness. Is your God like God in Exodus who wanted to wipe the Israelites off the face of this earth just for their rebelliousness? Or is He like the father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, welcoming, loving and forgiving no matter what you’ve done?
Our image of God determines how close we get to Him and how much we allow Him to heal and transform us. Our image of God matters. Too often our God is just a bigger version of our own parents who were only too human, after all, and at least somewhat problematic.
Nothing will really happen to transform us until we
1) own all that we are and have done and all that was done to us,
2) give our whole lives over to God and
3) allow God to transform our pain and suffering into blessings and grace.
Until that happens, we will be tethered to this world, unable to see God as He really is. We have no real personal experience of God on which to base our own images; we’re still just repeating what others have told us.
Questions to ponder over the week: Do I appreciate who God is to me and all that He has done for me? Do I even acknowledge His truth and ways of being and thinking and creating? Do I appreciate all that God is? His love and forgiveness of me? The grace and blessings that He showers on me every day whether I am aware of them or not?
Or am I still too captivated by the way I have always thought and been or by the way my church wants me to be and think? Am I still living in the world even as I think that my belief in Jesus Christ saves me from the world? Am I still working on my own agendas and ignoring God’s calls to me? What is the state of my soul? Is it totally given over to God? Or am I still hanging on to my own ways while I look pious and faithful on the outside?
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who are grateful for all that God has provided for us and the purpose He designed us for. May we embrace His love and forgiveness for us. May we be tethered to God before our commitments to the church. May we have integrity—where the inside and the outside are the same—in all that we do.
An Invitation to All of Us to Pray for our nation: for mercy and compassion for all, for community values and a deep sense of caring for each other. For peace. For love to reign. For a return to a love of God. For us to have one nation under God” as our motto again. If many of us would pray these things for our country, we could change the world. Invite your friends and neighbors to pray with us. in love and faith, Pat
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 John 8:7
 In all three Synoptic Gospels: Matthew 22:34-40, Mark 12:28-34, Luke 10:25-28
 Genesis 1:27
 Exodus 32