On ‘Loving Everyone’
July 31, 2020 @ 2:36 PM by: Jennifer Frank
by Rev. Abby Davidson
Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loves is born of God, and knows God. 1 John 4:7
I often hear people say that we should love everyone. I understand what they are getting at. I want to have a loving disposition toward everyone I meet. I want to be patient and kind to those I come into contact with on a daily basis. And yes, it seems like a good response when people ask about your faith to say, “oh, we love everyone”.
I want to love everyone. But I know I can’t. I’m struggling to love the people I know. I want to give time and energy and attention to all the people in my life, and yet I never have enough time or energy or attention to love them all well. Sometimes I flinch at my own lame efforts to show others I care. When someone is having a hard time, is sending a quick text really enough? Other times I wonder, how I let weeks go by without reaching out to someone close to me. And when friends confess their struggles on social media, I hope that liking their status is enough because my words often seem inadequate. I want to love everyone. But more than that, I want to love the people that are actually in my life.
Does God really ask us to love everyone? We are told to live in peace with everyone (Hebrews 12:14). We are told to love our enemies (Luke 6:35). We are told to love our neighbour and, as my husband often points out, we’re even told to love ourselves (Mark 12:31). We often told to ‘love one another’ (John 13:34; Romans 13:8, 1 Peter 4:8; 1 John 4:7) but loving ‘one another’ is different than ‘loving everyone’.
When the Bible says we should “love one another” it is usually referring to believers. This love was the witness of the early church. People heard about God’s love for them and were changed. They started meeting together regularly for food and prayer and teaching and they shared all their possessions and had everything in common (Acts 2). The love they had for each other then spilled over into the wider community, and they were able to care for those who couldn’t care for themselves. Their love began with God, then turned inward to the believing community, and then outward, to those in need. This was the natural progression of Christian love and it still is today.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to ‘love everyone’ but I do think the words lack meaning when applied universally. Love isn’t just about words, but about actions. God loves everyone. He made that clear by giving his Son to die for everyone. God proved his love through his actions. We show our love through actions too, and not just how we care for those outside the Church, but in how we care for those inside as well. This is important because as disciples, we are called to participate in Kingdom building together. The Church should be a place where we see forgiveness, grace, and patience. The Church should be a place where we are committed to each other. The Church should be a place where we laugh and cry and eat together. If we’re not practicing that kind of love inside the Church, then how can we expect to take it outside of the Church?
So as much as I want to love everyone, I’m going to start by loving those in my home and in my church. And I’m going to pray that God will help me love the people I know well.