Matthew 22:36-40 (NIV)
36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Jen Hatmaker’s new book, For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards, expresses so many of my own thoughts as a Christian in a world that seems polarized, quick to judge, and always striving toward elusive perfection. Even though it is challenging to show one another love sometimes — and I can think of many times when I’ve failed at this command — I do believe love is essential to honoring God. If we as Christians could do a better job at loving God and loving others, the world might not be so cynical toward us.
Tearing each other down is not bringing glory to God. There is a time and a place for showing concern and offering critiques from a place of love — within relationship, one-on-one, when something really needs to be said — but it seems that nowadays some people are ready to pounce upon and dissect any little perceived imperfection of another human being. None of us are perfect. Period. That is why it is the grace of God that saves us through faith in Christ, not our own works.
Of course, we do our best to gain wisdom. We read the Bible and listen to sound teaching and preaching (biblical exegesis). We can speak the truth, even hard truth, when it needs spoken (in a loving way). We want to do our best for God. Soon as a Christian mentions showing love, I think some people are, unfortunately, immediately ready to pounce and set up their counter-argument (Seriously, you are arguing against love?). Oh, you must be wishy-washy in your faith, they say. I think a person can show love and have strong faith at the same time.
Jesus is the ultimate example of love. He visited people that the religious elite of his time snubbed. He did not get involved in politics because his mission was (gasp) more important than politics. He showed compassion toward the poor and the rejected, and he lovingly taught his followers. No, he didn’t say things that people liked all the time. Yet, when He was asked what the greatest commandment is, He said to LOVE God, and then love others. Our job isn’t to “fix” everyone around us. It isn’t to be perfect all the time.
Let that sink in. It’s powerful.
If you’re struggling today to be everything to everyone, here is a quote from Jen about coming up with priorities.
That’s wisdom, ladies. We can’t balance it all or have it all. We can do what our season in life allows. We can certainly do our best, but give yourself and others some grace.
One more thought: this review is just a taste of the book. It’s a fascinating read. Jen has some hilarious chapters about fashion fails, turning 40, and other cultural observations. She also has some must-read chapters about how the post-modern generation needs its questions and doubts to be addressed (by listening and discussing rather than reacting in an authoritarian or dismissive way), as well as a chapter about short-term mission trips that work for the community that is being served (rather than misguided “poverty tourism,” which sadly happens sometimes). If this book gets into the hands of enough people, hopefully it will change the church for the better — emphasizing unity (in Christ), not uniformity (welcoming differences in personality, appearance, culture, upbringing, etc.) among believers.
P.S. After reading some other reviews of this book, as well as receiving feedback on this post, one common theme was that the gospel should be communicated within the discussion of love. The gospel is love. In Jen’s defense, she wrote her book to a Christian audience — people who have already heard and believed the gospel. Yet, here in this blog post, I do not know who is reading. If you would like to know more about the gospel, here is a link that will tell you what it means. I’m not affiliated with this link in any way, but when I read the page, I felt like it explained the gospel well.
Book Look Bloggers gave me this e-book for free in return for my honest review.