Love, Minus the Condemnation
“We love, because He first loved us.” – 1 John 4:19
Yesterday’s Gospel reading (Luke 15:1-32) encompasses the stories of the lost sheep, of the lost coin, and of the prodigal son, who left his family and wasted his inheritance. These stories remind us of the importance of every soul.
During the telling of the story of the lost sheep, the Pharisees and the scribes, rather than being open to Christ’s teachings, could not get over the fact that, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” Rather than focusing on evangelization and the salvation of others, they were content with callously judging others.
The story of the lost coin subtly points toward the lengths to which God goes to lead us to Him. He will always “sweep” and “search” for us, in the hope that we will love, honor, and want to be with Him.
And as for the prodigal son, he was forced by necessity to take a low-paying job in which he tended to the swine of a local farmer. Still, he was impoverished. At this point, he “would have gladly filled his stomach with the pods that the swine were eating.” Eventually, he decided that he need not live under such financial duress and returned to his father, who welcomed him with open arms. The son mirrors what we should do after sinning: feel contrition and return to our heavenly Father.
One of my past professors made an interesting parallel: perhaps the mention of longing to eat with “the swine” refers back to how the Pharisees viewed sinners (and Christ, for eating with them). The Pharisees, caught up in their ideas of ritual cleanliness, thought of them as filthy pigs.
All of this underscores the inherent value of everyone, that we should not be quick to judge people harshly, and that we should love them. Everyone is valuable, because God cares for everyone (1 Peter 5:7).
Coinciding with this, in the second reading (1 Timothy 1:12-17), Paul gratefully writes that he was “shown mercy” due to the “more than abundant” “grace of our Lord”. He emphasized that, though he was at one time a horrible sinner, God cared enough to personally lead him to a new, Christian path.
And in the Old Testament reading (Exodus 32:7-11, 13-14), we can notice that, even for just one righteous person, God is willing to alter His preferred plans.
In light of this, we can – and should, for the sake of our salvation and the salvation of others – judge actions, but we should refrain from rashly condemning whole people, because God is personal, He loves everyone, and He is the ultimate Judge (Psalm 7:11; Revelation 20:12).
We must love.
(All verses are from the NASB translation.)