I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least.DOROTHY DAY
I’ll come back to that quote. I’ll just let it be there for now. First, I’m going to share what I feel, what I know, and what I must learn.
Here’s a fun fact for you: I’m an American citizen. Born, but not raised. It wasn’t until I was in Australia at 19 that I realized people don’t like Americans. What was once something I was proud of became something I preferred not to be known (and yet here I am telling y’all!).
I care about America. I grew up thinking of it as Canada’s protective older brother and a rescuer of the world time and again. I don’t know if that was childhood naïveté or an accurate depiction of the America that was, but it’s no longer what I think. Today when I look at America I see a nation grasping at slipping power, lusting after gone glories, and neglecting (at best) and abusing (at worst) select citizens. Take this statement for what it is: that’s also how I would describe Hitler’s Germany. If Hitler had a slogan it would’ve been Make Germany Great Again. That was his goal.
I recently had a nightmare. It was vague, but it reminded me of an unforgettable nightmare I had when I was 10. It was all fear, so much fear. In that decades old nightmare I was running and running and running. I watched a classmate get shot protecting me (the most random classmate, but still). Eventually I hid and as my eyes adjusted to the darkness I saw a man sitting across from me. Osama bin Laden. As I began to scream I woke up. My recent nightmare was also drenched in fear but all I remember is this: Donald Trump won the 2020 election. I know these are only dreams, but they betray the deep dread of my soul.
Stay with me here, guys. I promise I get kinder.
I can’t wait for the election to be over, but impatient as I am, I’m also afraid. I’m afraid of the results and afraid of the country’s response. I’m very afraid of the Christian response. As I write this my stomach is rolling with anxiety and my leg is bouncing a mile a minute. It could be argued that I shouldn’t care this much. I don’t live there; I’m not really American. But I do care. I care about the fate of a nation that’s part of who I am. I care about the home of my brother and his wife and my best friend and her husband. I care about the North American Church and the way it represents Jesus.
I know I’m not alone in my fears. Some of us are afraid of Trump winning and some of us are afraid of Trump losing. But to all of us afraid, no matter what we fear, there is Good News: He knows what’s coming. He always knew what was coming. He is surprised by nothing. None of what has happened and none of what will happen will knock Him off His throne. None of it will null and void His death and resurrection. The earth fades, but Heaven remains. People pass, but He lives. Empires come and go, but He reigns forever. Kingdoms rise and fall, but the Upside Down Kingdom shines eternal.
This glorious truth doesn’t mean we shouldn’t concern ourselves with the life and world we share. Our King concerned Himself a great deal with our lives and our world, after all. What it does mean, though, is that no matter what happens, at the end of everything is the Risen, deeply in love with us, Christ. And although darkness may cover us, although we may find ourselves (figuratively or literally) wandering, suffering, dying, and mourning… We won’t be here forever. We’ll be with Him forever. He will be our Beloved King forever. We will be citizens of the Kingdom above all kingdoms forever.
There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.REVELATION 22:5
I’ve been taught all my life about the power of Heaven, of the Kingdom, invading earth. This power is always described as signs and wonders, healings and transformations. Perhaps it is that; Jesus brought those things and He told us we would do even greater things (John 14:12). But is that all the power of Heaven brings? Is that all the Upside Down Kingdom looks like on the earth? I don’t think so. What if it looks like this…
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.1 PETER 4:8-10
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone… If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink… Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.ROMANS 12:9-21
The greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.LUKE 22:26-27
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross!PHILIPPIANS 2:3-8
Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?” The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”MATTHEW 25:34-40
You have heard that it was said, “Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.” But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.MATTHEW 5:38-45
I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. Treat others the same way you want them to treat you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.LUKE 6:27-36
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”GALATIANS 5:13-14
Maybe the power of the Kingdom of Heaven looks like this kind of love. I’m willing to bet on it.
It hurts to love like this. It costs to love like this. This kind of love is more than sterile policy and so-called righteous opinion. This kind of love is a lifestyle of sacrifice. It’s the gospel in your living room. It’s the emptying of your wallet. It’s indiscriminate generosity and un-begrudging service. It’s being with the living and the dying — fully with them — wherever, however, and whoever they are. It’s not dignified votes for family values or at-an-arms-length judgment calls. It’s radically loving the world — by bringing the world into our own hearts and homes — to serve the least of these. It’s dirty and messy and raw.
In so many ways I have yet to learn this kind of love, but foster care is this kind of love. I speak from some experience when I say that this kind of love is hard. It’s leave me sobbing, leave me used, leave me broken kind of hard. It infiltrates every corner and crevice of my heart and my life; it won’t stop until I choose to walk away. It changes everything. It gets in my face, exposes my weaknesses, messes up my plans, and abolishes my comfort. This kind of love leaves nothing alone and requires enduring, everyday, chosen sacrifice.
But wait, there’s more! This kind of love isn’t just for innocent orphans, sweet widows, and kind strangers. This kind of love is for enemies and unlovables: criminals of the worst kind, corrupt leaders, and the people who make us so angry we feel it in every cell of our body. It’s for child abusers, adulterers, murderers, psychopaths, rapists, greedy businessmen, unjust judges, and evil dictators. It’s for addicts and thieves. It’s for bad drivers and rude customers. It’s for racists and rioters. It’s for you and me and them and us.
This kind of love is undeserved and poured upon all of us, the just and the unjust. This kind of love is ours to give in like manner.
This kind of love is Upside Down.
So. What do I feel? Afraid. What do I know? I’m a citizen of a greater, everlasting Kingdom. What must I learn? The power of that Kingdom doesn’t look like the power I expect. The power of that Kingdom is Upside Down Love.
I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least.DOROTHY DAY
When I read that a couple years ago, as it slammed rudely into my chest, I knew immediately who I love the least. A stranger. Donald J. Trump.
Evidently, I’ve got a lot left to learn about this kind of love.
Come what comes, Jesus, teach me to love. Teach me to love like you.