Jesus said, "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you."
"Christian Love" is based on "Jewish Love." When Jesus gives the love commandment (in the Synoptics) it is a summary of the Torah. Love is the heart and core of Torah: Love God and love your neighbor. Christians are not any better at the loving than the Jews were, and probably no worse. What is a difference maker is the model of love. The ruler with which we measure love is Jesus. Too often we try to determine for ourselves what love is (being independent) and we forget "as I have loved you" is the model and the mode of loving. The authentic Christian is about love and that is not true of all religions; and no other religion measures love by Jesus...
Jesus said,"You are My friends if you do what I command you." Lots of "dead and come back" people claim that the judgment they experienced centered on the question, "did you love?" [While I believe something real happened to those NDE people, it does not trump revelation in my mind.] I find this consistent with Jesus' command. Faith, love and obedience are intimately tied together. Being Jesus' friend is an active choice (friendship is that way, isn't it?). Grace is in the offer of friendship, obedience is in the response to grace...
Jesus said, "You did not chose Me, I chose you..." I heard a round table on a Christian radio station where the ministers celebrated the fact that God chooses some of us. We minister to all, one said, because we do not know which ones are chosen. Perhaps that is the point of Jesus saying it to His apostles. Perhaps, but I think not. He says they are chosen to go and bear fruit. I think the fruit bearing is the point. God chooses, Jesus chooses. We respond. But the choice is for a purpose: salvation. We forget that His heart is on all of His creation (recall His argument with Jonah). The love of God is not partial, reserved for a handful. The love of Jesus is not about 'my' salvation (me me me me) it is about 'our' mission to the world. Everything we have is for others. That is God's nature.
Jesus said, "if the world hates you, know that it has hated Me before it hated you...the world hates you...If they persecuted Me they will persecute you." I imagine the early church's marketing department was not pleased with this kind of talk. There are lots of billboards and commercials for churches in Memphis. I have heard lots of reasons to join. Usually a diverse (age, race, sex) group of attractive people are accompanied by some slogan about belonging and acceptance. Not untrue and certainly appropriate. However, we tend not to say, "Come with us and be hated."
And who hates Jesus? It turns out, lots of people. It amazes me. I understand anger at the church (I feel it too). I understand disdain for clergy (I don't like myself sometime!). I understand the list of faults in the church (though I think it can get silly, too). I do not get the Jesus hating though. Well actually I do:
Jesus said, "He who hates Me, hates My Father also." Jesus offends the "do it myself" attitude of the human race (and the progressive tolerance movement). Like the ancient Romans, the current social leaders advocate acceptance of everyone's beliefs--as long as they do not impinge on the shared faith. And what is the shared faith? It is secular and civil religion. It is United Nations Millenial goals or save the planet or pro-freedom to abort. It is not submissive to God but compliant with the societal value system. This means: No Jesus. No one way. No I and the Father are one. No if you hate me then you hate God.
Jesus speaks a word which reminds us that if we are His and if we are faithful there will be rejection. The goal is not rejection (being a jerk can also cause people to hate you), but rejection is a fruit of the goal. The goal is to be Jesus' own, to live as His.
I believe the Jesus haters are growing in power. I believe their hate is getting stronger. I believe we need to focus on Jesus. It is going to be harder and harder to love in the days ahead, to love others in response to their hatred.