If you talk to most people today about religion, they’ll say something like: I don’t like the church (or organized religion), but I really like Jesus. The church is full of a bunch of judgmental hypocrites. But Jesus loved everybody, and he loved them unconditionally.
With all the Josh Duggars and Sam from ‘Sam and Nia’s in the world, to be honest: part of me wants to agree wholeheartedly. But as easy as that would be, it’s an oversimplification. Something is missing.
Jesus’ unconditional love is one of my favorite things about him. I adore the way he cared for and valued every single person exactly as they were. Yes, he asked them to turn from actions that were hurting themselves or others. But he never shamed them. He loved everyone, in a way that is hard for most of us to fully understand … much less be able to successfully emulate.
But Jesus’ radical love is only part of the picture. The thing fewer people talk about is this: Before Jesus went out in the world to love people in a radical, counter-cultural way — to eat with the outcasts, the widows, people everyone else was too busy to care about — he went through extensive training and preparation.
Jesus studied Scripture in the synagogues. He memorized the Psalms. He spent hours listening to teachers and instructors of the law, and he engaged in deep conversations with them. (Even calling them out when they had an incomplete view or misunderstanding of the text.)
He didn’t ignore God’s law and Biblical writings. He soaked them in. He committed word of God, the prayers of David, to memory. And once he was rooted in that knowledge and training … then he ventured out in the world to spread God’s radical love.
Love without that background — that fierce dedication to God’s word, that intimate knowledge and hunger for him — cannot be sustained long-term. Love for the sake of love, without a deep understanding of God’s Ultimate Love, is just a shadow of what it was meant to be.
To think that Jesus was all love and no foundation/training is a fundamental misunderstanding of who Jesus is. We can’t just love everybody for the sake of loving them. Our love must be grounded in a daily reading of Scripture, in a life spent in frequent prayer and communication with God.
Without that training and foundation, our love will get off track. Our love will lose it’s power — its radical, life-changing potency. Simply put, it won’t be Real Love.
That’s why Scripture is so important. That’s why Bible studies, training courses and churches that teach the Bible (not just ‘3 Steps Towards Living Your Best Life’ but real Scriptural exegesis) are vital.
Most Christians today struggle with truly showing God’s love–a love an acceptance free of judgment and shame. And our inability to do that is making it difficult for people from truly understanding the love and grace of God. We need to change our culture to better fit in the truth of Jesus.
But in order to do that correctly, we HAVE to be grounded in Scripture. We have to know what the Bible says, cling to Christ’s words, and try (as much as imperfect humans can try) to live it out in our daily lives.