Driving past M.L. Rose (a great burger joint in the 8th Ave. So area here in Nashville) a couple days ago I saw a fascinating billboard. One the left side was a black and white photo of what looked like someone’s grandma. It had her name next to her picture, but in larger letters to the right it said, “Love One Another.” I tried to scan for some mention of a corporate sponsor for this message…nothing. It was simply someone’s personal message to the community, inspired by the message of Jesus—who certainly didn’t beat around the bush about how much he wanted us to love each other, right? It got me thinking: why don’t we love one another? Here are a few ideas.
- We like to have enemies.
Imagine how boring sports or politics would be if everyone won, with each game or race ending with a giant hug. We love it when our team wins, and hate to lose. When we win, our ego cheers! We were the smarter ones for picking the better team! If you look closely at any movement trying to gain cultural traction, a big part of their marketing plan is to create an opposing ideological force to fight against. Usually these opposing forces are going to lead to the destruction of society as we know it. Encouraging “the sky is falling” mentality leads to a stronger connection to those we believe will be our saviors. Religion thrives on having the answers to all the big questions, literally demonizing those with opposing views.
- We want to change other people.
Most parents say about their children, “I don’t care what they do, I just want them to be happy.” We don’t want those we love to get hurt. Sometimes it’s obvious when another person is doing something that will bring pain or cause destruction, and our compassion wants to save them from that happening. So we try to get people to change what they’re doing (stop drinking, stop sleeping around, stop working so much, stop being so critical of others). Unless these conversations are happening within the context of a trusting relationship, the person only looks like a controlling egomaniac. I used to think I had a responsibility to help people be the person I believed they should be, so trust me when I say that it usually leaves you sitting alone in your glass house.
- We define love differently.
I think most people generally believe they are loving other people well. It’s the other people who aren’t very loving. Sometimes the difference is between people who hang on principle and those who hang on compassion. How can I truly love you and let you throw your life away? Or how can I love you when you might be impeding my life, my rights, or my comfort, in some manner? I’ve seen this rip apart relationships. I’ve landed on this: if the other person doesn’t feel like you’re loving them, or you’re loving them with conditions (“I love you, but…”), then you can’t count yourself as loving them. Love shouldn’t be conditional, or confusing. But Jesus trumps this when he says in John 15:12-13, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Are you really ready to lay down your life, your will, your comfort, your dreams, for the sake of love? I don’t know if I am, but I want to try.
BONUS: this might be most important one…
- We don’t know how loved we are.
It’s psychologically proven that we treat others how we’ve been treated. We are critical of others about the things which we are critical of ourselves. The inverse applies, as well. When I know how forgiven I am, I can extend the same amount of forgiveness to others. When I know how loved I am, I can love others with the same kind of love (1 John 4:19). To me, the grand story of life is that our Creator is imbued with love, and has made us out of that love. And is telling a great love story throughout all of time, particularly demonstrated through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus came to show us the way, and not just the way to eternal life, but the way to love, so that we could all be one, just as he and God are one (John 17:21).
Do you know how loved you are? It’s really pretty remarkable the incredible worth and value you have as a uniquely created child of God. I hope to show you that if we ever meet. And, ahem…not to tell you what to do, but maybe you can show that to people you meet, as well. But instead of simply being a billboard to the world that inspires people to love one another, let’s continually demonstrate it, not just with words and good thoughts, but with actions.
Romans 12:10:“Be devoted to one another in love.
Honor one another above yourselves.”
Mark Smeby is a singer, songwriter, actor, and author based in Nashville, Tennessee. He’s released five CDs, including the companion CD project to his book “The Messenger: A Journey Into Hope,” which was recently published by BroadStreet Publishers (available here or here). He hosts the Live Hope Minute daily radio feature heard on nearly 200 stations across the U.S. and Canada. A spokesperson for Prison Fellowship International (pfi.org), Smeby travels around the U.S. delivering messages of hope at live events with speaking and music. His passion is to creatively and courageously communicate hope to the world around him.