Love them all, God says. Why do Christians have such a hard time acting on it?

I recently wrote a column about what it might look like if professing Christians spent less time whining about it and more time imitating the Jesus they profess to follow.
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This article got so much response that I thought I'd revisit it. It's an idea worth considering. After all, there's no telling what impact such a life might have on Congress, education, poverty, prisons, medicine, and marriages.
Paul Prater
Having spent the last 40+ years preaching and writing the good news as set forth in the New Testament—​the foundational text of our faith—I have come to the conclusion that the overarching message of Christianity is: "Love them all."
Jesus said God's commandments are: Love God with all your heart and love others as you love yourself. That's it.
He, Paul, and the other New Testament writers repeatedly affirmed this principle.
St. Paul: Even if I'm a prophet who knows all mysteries, even if I can move mountains with my faith, but I'm not consumed by love, then I'm just a loud, tinkling bell.
John: He who does not walk in love does not know God, for God is love.
As you read the New Testament, you cannot overlook this principle unless you try to overlook it.
Which begs obvious questions: why do Christians miss it so regularly? Why do we—and by “we” I mean almost all of us—not obey the very foundation of the gospel?
I can't speak for all Christians, but I can't follow this message because it's incredibly difficult and also counterintuitive. Besides, it scares me.
Biblical scholar N. T. Wright has a remarkable theory about what Jesus was doing here 2,000 years ago. He says Jesus literally wanted to bring heaven to earth, to unite the two realms into one.
When Jesus told the disciples to pray, "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven," he was not spouting platitudes. He proclaimed that right then, right there, the kingdom of heaven had invaded the kingdom of earth - and he wanted his followers to have a part in it. As blockheads, they need divine help and should ask for it.
Jesus believed that by learning to live God's way by changing their minds (which is the literal meaning of "repent"), Jesus believed that His disciples could eventually push the darkness out of this world until the earth was cleansed of joyful, wondrous light of heaven.
To do that, they must stop hating anyone and start loving everyone, he said. They should not judge anyone, but show mercy to all. They should stop fighting and instead pray for their enemies. They should stop hoarding and start sharing their possessions. They should avoid foisting petty religious rules on people and start showing humility and recognizing themselves as royally screwed up.
When you think about it, the kingdom of heaven is a beautiful thing. It is a kingdom of peace and grace and plenty. We should all hope it takes power. This is not a party political agenda, I can assure you.
And theoretically we want God's Kingdom. But inhabiting it while walking the presently unsaved earth, down here in the mud, is hard. The laws of heaven contradict everything our nature and culture tell us. Living life in the kingdom of heaven is dangerous.
If you practice unconditional love, others will absolutely take advantage of you. They will use up everything you give them and come back demanding more and more until you are ruined. The violent among them will interpret your gentleness as permission to rob, enslave, rape, or murder you. The cynic will mock you.
If you follow the rules of heaven, you won't step into some dreamy, squishy utopia. There's a good chance barbarians won't cut your throat. What basically happened to Jesus and his apostles.
Subsequent Christians have long tried to find a compromise, a way to nod to what Christ commanded without becoming silly or risky.
Rather than settle for a 50-50 compromise between life in heaven and life on earth, we work with about 10 percent heaven and 90 percent earth. We tithe our devotion to the Lord. The devil gets the crowd. We're going to spend a few hours in a soup kitchen, as long as we can get home in our comfy couches and don't have to deal with downtrodden people for another month.
It is not surprising, then, that the Church in general, and Christians in particular, have proven about as corrupt as the rest of our dysfunctional society.
What impact could we have if we actually began to silently demonstrate God's unconditional, sacrificial love—full-time? Well, we could reform this world and its institutions without firing a shot or carrying a placard or sweeping an elementary school.
But we probably won't find out.
I'm also not claiming that I've managed to live out the laws of heaven. I'm as short-sighted and self-serving as the next guy.
But occasionally I catch glimpses of the kingdom of Jesus and what it teaches and what it calls me to do. I keep trying to enter them, incrementally, with more failures than successes.
Paul Prather is the pastor of Bethesda Church near Mount Sterling. You can email him at pratpd@yahoo.com.

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