If you've been a Christian for one month or more, hopefully you've heard that the Old Testament law is summed up in the Greatest Commandment: Love God and love your neighbor.  Let's focus on the second half for a moment.  Loving our neighbor is a simple theory.  (Aren't all difficult scriptural mandates simple in theory?)  When it comes to applying these mandates in our lives things seem to get messy, confusing, or even worse, just plain too hard to follow at all.  

For example, how do you honestly love the parents of the boy at school that bullies your son and sends him home crying each day? Or how do love the 6 people that cut you off to get the closer parking spot and improve their chances at beating you to the next Walmart discount on Black Friday (when all you want is a Christmas tree from the Garden Center)?  I'm sure some of you have already answered those questions (lovingly), but for the rest of us, we need a little help in the real-life scenarios. Isn't real-life, on-your-own love 1,000 times more difficult than the love discussed at your last small group bible study when EVERYONE offered immediate solutions to ALL your loving-neighbor struggles?

I want to look at love from a different angle; I want to offer a short reflection on love that:

  1. Isn't the picture-perfect love everyone imagines they are capable of(but really, in practice, fail often), 
  2. Is a whole lot less idyllic (perfectly blissful, Hollywood "love"), and
  3. Is more gritty (courageous and messy at times)  

Let's take a look at two "pictures" of Jesus' love.  Warning: these may not be the standard "love passages" that you are used to but I already said I wanted to look at love from a different angle.  So, please, bear with me. 

John 8:1-11

“Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” (vv 4-5) 

I know, she's been with a whole handful of men, and the one she's with is not even her husband.  In today's slang, she's "dirty".  But I'm just curious: how was she caught in the act of adultery?  Really, if someone gets caught "in the act" can we not assume there were witnesses?  And if the witnesses are present and not stopping the sinful engagement, are they not at least partially complicit (guilty by condoning the behavior)?  And where's the guy that was involved?  Yeah, the one that is currently not her husband, where is he?  Off free? Or is he also about to through a rock, stone her to death for her sin, and simply blend in with the crowd?  This is an ugly situation, to say the least!  And it's certainly convoluted (messy and complicated)!  Life is like this at times, isn't it?  Everyone's really guilty, but there's one scapegoat.  

There is one thing we know for sure: the adulterous woman is "dirty"! In the mess of the moment, and right when this woman's "dirtiness" was on display to the world, Jesus bends down AND GETS HIS HANDS DIRTY. And as he draws in the dirt, the crowd walks away guilty, and Jesus instructs her to leave her life of dirt (sin).  

John 9:1-7

After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. “Go,”he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing. (vv6-7)

The story states that Jesus "saw a blind man" which makes me feel "doubly bad" for the guy because he's both identified by his deficiency and it's emphasized by everyone's ability to see just fine (even Jesus).  In a culture that doesn't have nearly the hygiene practices of ours, to live in Ancient Palestine meant you were always sweaty and dusty. A man blind from birth is likely sitting on the ground, at shoe level with the crowd, picking up everyone's grime; the blind man was the dirtiest of all. So Jesus goes to work cleaning.  He cleans up the rumors (his blindness WAS NOT the result of his or his parent's sin), and then gives him instruction to wash in the Pool of Siloam to clean his body.  But, of course, his greatest "cleaning" was the way Jesus "cleaned" up the man's whole life by giving him his sight.  Again, in this story, Jesus bends down AND GETS HIS HANDS DIRTY. He actually used his saliva and some dirt to make this man new eyeballs, sending him away for a cleaner life.  

Not sure how you see it, but I believe these are two snap-shots of REAL LOVE.  And if this is the case, then, isn't love far LESS about knowing the proper way to engage others and MORE about diving into the dirt of other's lives and offering a healing presence?  Think about that for a moment...

A less picture-perfect and more gritty understanding of love is that we love our neighbors by braving their life's dirt, that we might bring to their hardships a bit of healing, a bit of forgiveness, and a whole lot less condemnation.  

Life is messy and often convoluted, making clean and tangle-free love a "thing" of theory.  In reality, genuinely loving someone is committing--in all the messiness and unpredictability of life--to be with that person and to stand for their healing! As you wait and get excited for Christmas, let me give you some Good News: THIS KIND OF LOVE IS EXACTLY WHAT WE GET IN EMMANUEL, the baby in the manger.  GOD "SO LOVED THE WORLD" THAT HE CHOSE TO DIVE INTO WORLD'S MESS, GET HIS HANDS DIRTY, AND BRING HEALING AND LIFE--NOW AND ETERNALLY.  

In theory love is so simple, but in practice, love is supremely challenging...and it's risky, gritty, courageous, and isn't afraid to get messy in the dirt of life.  

This is EXACTLY the meaning of COMPASSION: a willingness to stand with neighbors in their hurt and love them toward truth, healing, and salvation. God did it through Jesus. Jesus did it in his ministry. And now, Jesus asks us to do the same (John 13).  

This is why KCN's sixth core value is: WE ARE A PEOPLE OF COMPASSION (COURAGEOUS LOVE)!