Love One Another…. It’s That Simple.

Once again, over the last few days we have been witnesses to acts of unspeakable violence and hate.

Once again, our differences have torn us apart.  I don’t understand.

I don’t understand how someone can hate an entire race, creed, orientation; I don’t understand how someone’s heart can grow so hardened that the fears of our differences bring us to such a place and I am thankful for that lack of understanding.

For decades, I suppose centuries, our differences have continued to define us.  At what point will we find our similarities are so much more important than our differences?

Unfortunately, these acts of violence have hardened all of our hearts.  We send our love to victims, we pray for entire cities and we tweet about our heartbreak, but what do we actually do?

It’s not about guns, or politics, it’s about hearts, minds and a lack of understanding.

There are billions of people on the planet, each one of us different and that is what makes the world such an amazing place.  I can’t fathom a world where everyone was like me, short, fat, bald, old white guy, how boring is that?  What makes the world so amazing is our differences, our vast beliefs, religions, races, why can’t we seem to accept that and get along?

Our society has grown so hardened that we witness these senseless acts and then go on about our day, we just keep moving along and wait for the next atrocity to happen, we then send out thoughts and prayers and wait for the next, unfortunately it seems on a weekly basis.

Like all of you, my heart breaks a bit more each time one of these mass murders takes place and I am lost, I am lost to know what to do, I am lost to understand…. I am lost.

I don’t think I am the only one who is lost, I think we all are, we are lost to find answers when the fringe of our society begins to define us.

This isn’t a Democrat or a Republican issue, it isn’t an American issue, it is a human issue, one that brings us down instead of building us up.

I will always believe that 99.999999999999999% of the planet is good, but sadly today that infinitesimal percentage that is filled with hate and rage define us.  Our fringe should be just that, fringe, not the voices that we hear most often, but the ones who are set aside and witnessed to about the goodness of humanity and not encouraged and held up as a voice that should be leading our charge.

What do we do as people to stamp out this hate?  What do we do to celebrate our similarities and allow good to overcome evil?  What do we do?

Several years ago there was a movement in our society, it was begun by young people and it was symbolized by four letters…. WWJD?

What would Jesus do, a simple phrase with a simple answer….. LOVE ONE ANOTHER.

Jesus gave this simple command to his people, he didn’t say love one another except for those you disagree with.  He didn’t tell us to only love those who were like us, he told us to love all people, everyone.

We can’t love when we continue to allow our differences to separate us, if we are to truly love we must first look at how we are alike and then in voices of compassion, resolution and understanding we must work together to work together to overcome our differences.

I’m not a Bible scholar, but I have studied.  I can’t find a place in the Bible where we are told to love someone unless they are Black, Brown, Yellow, White, Jewish, Gay, Muslim, the only command I see is LOVE ONE ANOTHER.

At some point, if we are to survive as a people love has to overcome the hatred that we have for one another.  Hatred of our differences will only continue to tear us apart, continue our heartbreak and our tweets of compassion, when a tweet is simply too late.

Thankfully, all hatred doesn’t end in violence and death.  In our society today, we see people being harassed on a night out with a loved one, hate is hate.  We tear each other down over our beliefs, families are torn apart , people we value as friends are swept aside over simple differences.  Imagine how things could change if we just talked to each other, kept the temperature to a slow boil and discussed differences to find solutions like respectful humans.

I don’t hold myself aside from these actions, I am as guilty as anyone else, maybe one day we will all learn and embrace our similarities and stop letting our differences overtake us.

Sadly, there are few places where we are safe anymore.  Churches, synagogues, restaurants, nightclubs, the workplace, have all been attacked.  Our places of work and play are now battlegrounds and sites of mass murder, it is truly a sad commentary on our world.

We can do better, we must do better, we must find a way to LOVE ONE ANOTHER.

I don’t understand a hatred that engulfs someone, I don’t understand hatred of entire group of people, I don’t understand….. and I hope I never will.

#Christmas Playlist…. Gloria in Excelsis Deo performed by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir @ChristmasCount @MormonTabChoir

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Christmas Playlist…. Gloria in Excelsis Deo performed by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir

#Christmas Playlist…. Joy to the World performed by Chris Tomlin @ChristmasCount @ChrisTomlin

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Christmas Playlist…. Joy to the World performed by Chris Tomlin

#Christmas Playlist…. Sweet Little Jesus Boy performed by Casting Crowns @ChristmasCount @CastingCrowns

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Christmas Playlist…. Sweet Little Jesus Boy performed by Casting Crowns

Living a Generous Life @ChristmasCount @goodmenproject

generosityI recently read, “The Genius of Generosity” by Chip Ingram.

Less than 100 pages in length, this book flipped the switch on a major light bulb moment in my life.

Told through a simple story of generosity, this true-life experience has the ability to change lives and create a movement that is often missing in our society.

The gist of the book is shared in Chapter One.  A new Pastor is given access to a secret checkbook with the sole purpose of being generous.  The lessons that emerge are profound.

As I read the book, it occurred to me that generosity is one of the simplest actions for us to partake in.  During this Christmas season, we think about the generosity of gifts, how generous will you be with your boss, the kid’s teachers and Aunt Edith?  Many of us look at generosity as a task that is expected on special occasions, “The Genius of Generosity” made it clear that true generosity is found in year-round service and giving.

In reading the book, I began to look for opportunities that I could be generous.  Through my time, talents, gifts and service, generosity allows me to shape the future in small and large ways.

In seeking opportunities to be generous, I found that the true reward has little to do with what I give, but more about the feeling I get in giving.  Knowing that my small gift helps make the life of someone else easier certainly is a blessing that far outweighs the gift.

As I search for opportunities that I can be generous, I find that often it is in small gifts of service or finance that makes the biggest differences.  It isn’t about the big gift, but the small token that allows someone to know that they are being thought of by a neighbor.

Generosity has nothing to do with size, it is all about heart.

As I have looked for giving opportunities, I have found them.  No big life altering donations or life changing moments, just small gestures that make a difference.

The rewards I have found through generosity have far more to do with my heart than the gifts.  Being generous simply feels good, there is no other way to say it and if 20, or 50 or 100 dollars can help someone, the feeling I get is 10 fold.

Most importantly I have found that generosity is best given quietly.  We hear stories of major gifts given by celebrities on a daily basis, but I contend that while those gifts are miraculous, they pale in comparison to those given quietly and without fanfare.

“The Genius of Generosity” is a testament to what can be done when we look for opportunities to serve.   The book highlights 12 “bright ideas” of generosity that are simple take-aways for the reader….

  • To be smart, spend carefully.  To be wise save, regularly.  To be genius, give extravagantly.
  • When your money goes, your heart flows.
  • Generosity is a gateway into intimacy with God.
  • Stewardship is the path.  Generosity is the adventure.
  • Generous givers make God and His purposes their highest priority.
  • Enjoy God’s generosity to you…. then share it with others.
  • Faith increases giving, and giving increases faith.
  • Those blessed by God become blessers for God.
  • Generous living is joyful living.
  • God measures generosity not by the size of the gift but by the size of the sacrifice.
  • Generosity isn’t an act.  It’s a way of life.
  • True generosity doesn’t stop with possessions.  It starts with them.

As I have sought out opportunities to be generous my life has found greater joy.  Don’t get me wrong, I want great gifts for Christmas and I still ponder how much to spend on co-workers and Aunt Edith, but I know those challenges will work themselves out.  My more important thoughts are on how I can generously affect someone’s life.

Ironically, the more you give, the more you want to give.  As I seek ways to be in service, I find greater peace and joy in the simple gifts of generosity.

This Christmastime my thoughts don’t revolve around brightly colored bows or snowflakes, my greater joy will be found in service and generosity.  Ironically, isn’t that what the first Christmas was all about anyway?

About the  author Chip Ingram is Senior Pastor of Venture Christian Church in Los Gatos, CA and President of Living on the Edge, a teaching and discipleship ministry that provides practical help for everyday believers. He has a unique ability to communicate truth and winsomely challenge people to live out their faith. He has served as a pastor for more than 25 years and as president of Walk Thru the Bible.  The author of 12 books, Chip reaches more than a million people each week on radio and television worldwide.  Chip and his wife, Theresa, have four adult children and six grandchildren.