I grew up in the evangelical movement in the United States. This means I grew up expecting a religious war, believing I would be persecuted for my religion and learning how to be passive-aggressive toward anyone who did not believe like me by saying things like, “hate the sin, love the sinner” and “I will pray for you to see God’s will for you.”
I had no idea how dangerous this talk was until I was sexually assaulted as a teenager. I did not tell anyone about my assault. As my belly grew I was treated more and more like a cancer within the church. It was this treatment by the “good Christian” people around me that began to open my eyes.
In college I had another baby. This child came bundled with an extended family that would pose more conflict with people at church than I could understand—lesbian grandmas. This created even more problem because they also lived together—and even had a child together! I constantly had people asking me how I would explain this to my child. Would I let them see him? At the time I was a people pleaser, desperately trying to fit in at a church that saw me as flawed. Should I have stood up for these grandmas by saying that the church’s theology was based on hate and ignorance? Yep. Did I? Nope. I politely gave nondescript answers and recognized over and over that I could never invite the grandmas to church.
Flash forward several years. I started to become emboldened in life. I spoke freely and often about my sexual assault and realized that I can’t let other people keep me from telling it like it is. When I see someone being treated poorly, I speak up. No matter what.
Pointing out people’s bullshit gets me into trouble. I defended a disabled boy and his mom at the park, almost got beat up by a group of crazy people. I defended a transgender girl at a youth organization, and lost a bunch of friends. It has even rubbed off on my spouse who once defended a Muslim woman and was physically assaulted for it, receiving a concussion in the process.
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…1 Corinthians 13: 4-6
Now, to the point. People who use their religion to disguise their hate and ignorance are bullies. Love does not exclude. Love does not alienate. Love doesn’t passively-aggressively imply superiority. What does love do? If you grew up with the New Testament or have ever been to a wedding you have likely heard 1 Corinthians 13 which gives quite a definition. But let’s think about it in actions we can visualize today. Love comes alongside. Love recognizes the hurting and takes action. Love speaks for the person who can’t. Love takes the punch. Love works to make the world better for everyone.
It takes a lot of introspection to see our mistakes. To recognize we could have made better choices. To admit we were wrong. But that’s what love does.
If it didn’t, then what would be the point?