In our series Under the Mask we’ve been taking a look at all the ways we as followers of Christ can try and put on masks to cover up what is really happening inside. Hopefully this will be an exercise in us growing in being more real with ourselves and letting God into our messes.
Our next conversation in this series is on the mask of love while feeling or being driven by hate.
This series is not about the masks we know so much about now, but rather the masks that are so easy to wear that cover what is really happening on the inside .
When we focus on simply removing a mask, through willpower or anything else, it perpetuates the reality of the mask. As much as we might wish we could force ourselves to love someone, it’s not possible. What is possible is focusing on greater perspective that leads to greater love over time.
What is love?
How do you know when you see it/feel it/know it is real?
What do you experience when there is a deficit of love in a relationship?
Love can be defined, among other things, as an intense feeling of deep affection. With everything that has gone on in 2020, can you feel the pressure to be neutral? That maybe there are some people you struggle with trying to have intense feelings of deep affection toward? Not wanting to upset or be divisive or polarizing.
In a moment when it is so easy to put on a mask of love what we’re often perpetuating is indifference. And there’s a lot of safety in that. I can be safe or not offend someone or alienate someone if I don’t care/invest/risk/trust/challenge/try too much.
This season has been full of moments, collective and individual, where love has not been simple, where relationship has been difficult, and where conflict has been available everywhere. We often think it’s just safer to be indifferent, that really loving people carries too much risk.
What is the outcome of trying to blend love and indifference?
Preparation for this message quickly brought us to the idea that the opposite to love is not just hate but indifference.
Love, real love, is not just feeling. Love leads to action. It’s not passive or inactive. What is the opposite of those? No focus, action or attention. The opposite of love is indifference. Hear this repetition in the scriptural perspective of love.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
This love that Jesus uses here is to welcome, to entertain, to be fond of, to love dearly. Not just your family and friends. Welcome your enemies. Entertain your enemies. Be fond of them. Love them.
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
1 John 4:7-12
John speaks of love here as affection, good will, brotherly love. He speaks of God as the ultimate example of love. A love that sacrifices. Love that is not just running through fields of flowers, or that is just fun and easy, or that is just butterfly emotions. Love is as God loves us.
Paul gives some specifics of love in his writings to the Corinthian church.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8
Love is action. Love is results.
We have referenced the parable of the good Samaritan many times in the last few months.
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
The priest would have said “I love people.” The levite would have said “I love people.” Yet these were only external, momentary things. Masks that they wore. In the moment when it mattered most it wasn’t an internal reality of love.
The Samaritan was the one who truly loved. Love that wasn’t convenient, or safe, or easy, or natural, or rewarded.
That’s a lot of what love is. The mask that we might wear goes something like this.
I’m ok. I’m doing pretty good. God has called me to not hate, so I don’t hate people.
This might seem like love, but it’s missing it.
What is the difference between loving people and just not hating people?
The mask of love can be a mask that just says I don’t hate. When I think about my relationships with my spouse, my family, my friends, God, I would never think that my goal should just be to not hate.
God’s love toward us wasn’t that he just decided he wasn’t going to hate us but was indifferent toward us otherwise.
No, love is relationship even when it is difficult. It’s sacrificial. Love is full of actions and results. It is choosing to welcome, to entertain, to be fond of. Especially when it’s not convenient, easy, safe, natural, rewarded, or comfortable.
How have you been given the opportunity to love as opposed to just not hate in 2020?
Take It Deeper Questions
Read 1 John 4:7-12
Share your “first love” story.
If the absence of love leads to indifference, how is indifference similar and/or different to hate?
How does God love?
How does being loved by God and people affect you?
How are we to love?
Bible Reading Plan