THIS is How #LoveWins… and the GOOD of this Particular Friday

Much of my thoughts and prayers these last several days has been about the much heated and devisive debate about the definition of marriage in my home country.  I’m not here to say where I stand through it all, but in the end, as I’ve watched sides being taken, I know that what I think really doesn’t matter.  It doesn’t.  I can see my friends and family lining up on both sides.  And again, I don’t want to go into what I see each side saying or feeling because in the end, what I think doesn’t really matter.  It doesn’t. </P>

What really matters is how, in the end, when all is said and done, and the definition has been decided, is how we care and think about each other.  I wonder if we’ll regret that we didn’t at least try to listen to the other side, to hear their hearts to understand why they feel the way they do.  I can speak from my own varied experiences that often, it is not the disagreement that hurts the most, it is that the other didn’t listen and didn’t try to understand what I was trying to say.  Honestly, from my experience, the greatest expression of the second greatest commandment “to love our neighbor as ourselves” is in the slowing our own agenda and listening to the heart and intention of the other, to set our own plans aside to actually take a walk in their proverbial shoes… to learn to hear and then care, even if we don’t agree.

I bring this up tonight because my prayers of this week have collided head on with the Good of this particular Friday, and how Jesus through His own sacrifice, showed us what really matters, and that is how we care about each other, how we love each other, even when we don’t walk the same paths, even when we don’t think the same ways, even when we don’t reach the same conclusions.  And the thief on the cross who hung next to Jesus, and how Jesus listens to him, even as He hung on His own cross, is one of the most powerful displays of this kind of affection by any human towards another.

I’ve often wondered about the thief’s heart, as he realizes who it is that really hangs beside Him.  What did the thief see in the Man, his neighbor there on the crosses of Golgotha.  What did he see in Jesus when he told the thief who hung on the third cross,

“Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? We have indeed been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deed, but this man, He has done nothing wrong!”

What strength and courage it must have taken the thief to make this confession.

And I wonder what the conversation might have been between him and his neighbor on the cross that made him realize that the sacrifice of his neighbor, literally, The One hanging next to Him on the cross, could actually save him.  Jesus must have exuded love overflowing, grace so powerful it reached across the physical pain and psychological sorrow of facing certain death.  Of course he did.  And that grace poured out of his mouth ~ “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise” ~ just as freely as the blood spilled from his side.

And Jesus didn’t say, “you had your chance! Go to hell.” He didn’t say, “I have my own idea of what is most important and it’s not what you’re saying right now”.  He didn’t disregard the thief for His own agenda. No. I wonder how the world would be different if Jesus would have been the kind of person who  held fast only to His standards, not allowing the voice of the thief’s confessions be heard.  But that’s not the Man Jesus was.  It wasn’t who He taught us to be.  He listened to this man, he took off his “God is saving you” shoes and heard the thief’s regret and remorse and cared.  And in the end, He saved him too.

That’s how love wins.  When we hear our neighbor out, let them share their perspective without interruption or fight, that is when love wins. It’s not in a court battle. Or through cross exchanges of the internet. Or even in a marriage vow. Love wins when we see the other, and give grace.

Under the blood of Christ, we are all the same.  We are neighbors.  We are only saved and really, only heard, and made whole when we allow ourselves to hear Him in return, to love Him, and allow the blood of His forgiveness to spill all over us.

Then and only then, love wins.

And then and only then, this particular Friday is truly good.

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