This is the fourth of an irregular series, where I reflect on something seen online, usually through a post on Facebook.
About a week ago I saw this picture, and it has been percolating in my mind. As I have thought about it I have come to a few conclusions about the beliefs of the person who wrote it. I haven't been able to ask them any questions and may have their intentions wrong, but this is what I came up with.
First, the author doesn't care much for the concept of organized religion. The three listed groups account for 62% of the world's population, and that is without including Hinduism, which is twice as large as Buddhism.
Second, the author has what might be called a lowest common denominator for religion. For the author, religion, at its most basic level, is about "LOVE," which is emphasized by placing the word in capital letters. According to my Webster's Dictionary, 'religion' is "The service and worship of God or the supernatural." My knowledge of Islam and Buddhism is very limited but, as a Christian, I would say that what Jesus did on earth, the whole of his life, was most definitely about the "service and worship of God." Everything that Jesus did was rooted in his relationship with God.
And third, because of this lowest common denominator view of religion as being solely a matter of love, the author holds that there are no differences between religious groups in the world. As long as we are all practicing love then we are serving God rightly, and therefore anything else we might do in our religious practice is a misrepresentation of the intentions of the founder of our faith tradition.
As a Christian, and as a pastor, I'm going to say that what sounds like a good thing, to ground our life in love as a universal value, is actually a bad thing. It offers us something, that is actually nothing, at the cost of everything.
Love, as a universal value to guide our relations with others, the people in our families, our friends, the people we don't like at work, and people groups through the world, is not in itself a bad thing. There are many ways in which our relationships with others are strained or broken and life would be better all the way around if we could improve our relationships, all relationships, with love.
But the Christian is called to live in the present with eternity in view. We can't just let love for others in the world be the only way we direct our love. The first place we need to direct our love is towards God, a God who in the work of His Son, Jesus, has already given us a love that is so wonderful as to be fully beyond our understanding.
Jesus himself teaches this directly in Matthew 22:36-39, saying:
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
To settle for the world's version of love means missing out on the love of God that was uniquely given in His Son, Jesus.
Jesus was most definitely a teacher of love, but it was a love that was always grounded in God the Father as his primary relationship, a love that led him to cross, to give his life for the redemption of sinners. A love described in John 3:16-17 like this:
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him."
This, is love, a love that means everything.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.