The Loving Unloved
Updated: Jan 19, 2020
“By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother's righteous. Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.”
1 John 3:10-14 ESV
Us and them. This and that. In this life it’s important to be able to discern the difference between one thing and another. When you’re flying along in your F-35 at Mach 3, you better know the difference between the seat adjustment and the ejection handle.
The Apostle John takes pains to make it very clear that there are two - and only two - categories of people in the world. I know that there is an element in modern evangelicalism who would like to embrace everyone as being “a child of God.” But the fact is that some people love God, and some hate Him. Some believe; some don’t. Some love those who follow Jesus; some don’t. The Apostle John says figuring out who’s who is pretty simple: Those who belong to Jesus also love and practice righteousness. Those who don’t - don’t.
John says those who are “of the world” hate those who are “of God.” They are the real “haters” in society, hating what is good and righteous and holy, along with all those who represent those values. They mock at and misrepresent them, and attempt to paint people of faith and conviction in their own colors, saying that Christian believers are the narrow-minded “haters,” simply because they prefer holiness over evil. John says this is actually par for the course, and ought not to come as a big surprise. It’s how the world treated Jesus; it’s how it will treat His followers. Just the way it is; so deal with it.
How? By loving the unlovely. Even when we are unloved by the world, we are to love anyway. By tapping into the love of Jesus, we are to overcome our natural tendency to be repelled by animosity and vitriol, and love anyway. Why? Because God first loved us, even when we were unlovely; because we know from Christ's example what love really is, and because we experience it on a daily basis. Followers of Jesus are, first and foremost, people who love. We love God. We love what is good and right and pure and holy. We love God’s children. And we even love those who hate us, who hate our Savior, and who hate His loveliness.
Seems to me we need to embrace the reality that we are going to be loved by the world no more than the world loved Jesus, and stop trying to get the world to like us. We need to stop trying to accommodate the spiritually dead by playing dead ourselves. Deadness does not resurrect the dead. Only love does - the love of Jesus expressed at the cross, and expressed through His people.
Dr. Larry Sherbondy directs The Navigators ROTC Ministry. He and his wife, Rita, have been on staff with The Navigators for over 40 years. Larry also served for 25 years as in the US Air Force Reserve, retiring in the rank of Lt Col. He and Rita live in Carlisle, PA, and have two married children and seven grandchildren.