Hey friend, can we talk? Just you and me, sitting across from each other. Our hot steaming cups between us.

Jesus asked us to love one another. In fact, he took it a step further. He asked us to love each other the way he loved us. In a faith that talks about love in such beautiful terms, it feels important to talk about what love isn’t. 

Love isn’t labeling a person/ethnicity with words or jokes that never should fall from our lips.

Love isn’t found in harsh political debates that leave out wisdom, grace, and mercy.

Love isn’t posting status updates on social media telling others that if all people struggling with poverty just worked harder like we did they’d be better off.

Love isn’t condemning refugees and immigrants trying to find their way to safety.

Love isn’t pointing to other denominations and saying we have it right and they have it all wrong.

Love isn’t condemning or judging those whose battle you don’t understand.

Love isn’t pointing out another person as unwanted because we think her sin is bigger than our own.

Sometimes when I hear these things, I cringe. I really do. They are so confusing to those watching, those whose only view of the church comes from our words.

Jesus taught about what love isn’t. In Luke 7, he shares some “don’ts.” They aren’t the ones we typically talk about — you know, don’t curse, don’t lie, don’t cheat, don’t steal, don’t miss church, don’t be like you so you can be more like me. . . Instead Jesus is talking to a crowd and He says:

Don’t judge others and you will not be judged.

Don’t condemn others, or it will all come back against you.

Don’t fail to forgive.

Don’t hold your talents and treasure too closely, but give them away instead.

If we lived by these don’ts, we’d start to love like Jesus. We’d love those different from us. If we lived by these don’ts, we’d see all mankind as created and loved by God. If we lived by these don’ts, we’d walk in someone else’s shoes before we forced them into the mold of our own. If we lived by these don’ts, we’d measure our words as gifts and hand them out accordingly.

Loving others is an invitation. It’s also a commandment that helps us to greater experience and know God for who He is.

So, here we are. Two women or ten thousand around the table today. Just talking about what love isn’t. . .  so we can open our heart for God to show us what love is, and then do it.