While looking through Facebook memories, I recently came across an old heated argument. The comments were filled with hate. In fact, the phrase “I HATE YOU!” was strewn throughout.
Of course, the proper Christian response to hate is love, or the Christian platitude “I love you in Jesus.” Like clockwork, that love-phrase was said each time a hateful comment appeared.
“I love you.”
Such simple words. It’s a paradox, really: deep meaning imbedded in a simple phrase.
I believe we’ve been fooled by this simplicity. We declare love to strangers without thought or concern for love’s profundity.
Making matters worse is our social media context. It’s easier than ever to say “I love you” or “I hate you.” We don’t need to see people’s faces or know their voices, yet we love and hate them–people we barely know or don’t know at all.
Looking through this old status, I asked myself: is there something deeper and unspoken going on?
Are our empty love declarations infused with subconscious, personal agendas? Now, when I say “agendas” I’m not referring to sinister, conscious agendas to harm people. Religious agendas–in particular– are often altruistic, in their own way. A person may sincerely believe that those who fail to believe in Jesus are on their way to damnation, making it a Christian’s responsibility to spread the faith. But how much evangelism is infused with personal agendas of acknowledgement? We want our Christian friends to affirm our Christianity–to see that we respond to hateful Facebook comments with online love declarations. But we don’t love these people. We love ourselves and we want our friends to love us. We want acceptance in our own communities, to be called “brother” or “sister,” especially by top tier Christians.
I say this because that was me; I was the one responding with empty Christian platitudes to the hateful Facebook comments.
In fact, much of my Christianity and my Christian acts/words were pleas for affirmation among my fellow Christians. Self doubt was my struggle. And if it was my struggle, chances are it’s the struggle of many others. We think we’re being loving to our neighbour, but we’re really being loving to ourselves, at the cost of empty words.
As I recall, I never contacted those Facebook people again. They were left with the impression that Christians carelessly declare love for social media strangers. And I left feeling affirmed.
Now, not everyone is like I was. Some people truly mean it when they say they love strangers. But love costs; it costs more than finger taps on a keyboard. According to Jesus, the greatest form of love is laying down your life for someone–to die for them. Is that the length you’re willing to go when you declare love to someone you’ve never met? Or are you throwing words around to feel accepted by your community?
Love is expressed by the way we live. And how we live shows the real weight of what we say. The weight of my love for those people on Facebook was that of a feather.
So count the cost before you speak, because love is never cheap.