I preach and write about love all the time because we are told in the Bible that the God of Jesus is love, and the Bible is about that very God. In short, I believe that Christianity is at its heart about Jesus' way to the wide open unconditional embrace of the God, who is love.
It sounds simple, but following Jesus' way and focus on love can be hard and risky. Jesus' no-hurdles-to-love ministry got him killed. He was executed because of his bold and passionate unwavering and very public commitment to love.
Love is risky stuff in modern times, too. In April, I saw "42," the movie about Jackie Robinson, and Branch Rickey broke down baseball's color barrier, the awful oppressive hurdle that kept African-Americans from playing in the Major Leagues. As the movie unfolds, some take action to break the hurdle down, some act to keep the hurdle up and some take little or no action.
Even though the story is well-known, the movie draws you in and you root for Jack and Branch, and root against the racists. The most frustrating thing in the story, however, is the characters who do nothing. When, at last, more and more people finally take action against oppression, things start to fall in place.
To be like Jesus is not to be inactive, like those in the Jackie Robinson story, who let racism go unopposed. To be like Jesus is to be like southerner Pee Wee Reese, the Dodger shortstop, who put his arm around Jack Robinson at first base and stood with him openly and proudly - whether anyone else liked it or not.
The Jesus movement, from its inception, was about more and more people taking action to end oppression. Jesus was not afraid to proclaim and act out his no-hurdles-to-love theology. He declared he came to proclaim release of captives and to let the oppressed go free. He taught love of everyone. He taught: in everything do as we'd want done to us. He let everyone into his following.
In Acts, the early church continues the teachings and actions to end oppression. Peter teaches God's command to call no one profane of unclean, and he welcomes an enemy soldier into the church, just as Phillip welcomed an Ethiopian eunuch. Everyone is loved and welcomed on Jesus' way.
Jesus did not live, die or rise to glory so that his followers would oppress, judge or bully anyone. He lived, died and arose so that we'd promote love, the steadfast forever love of God, in everything we do. It can be hard and risky, but it's "The Way of Jesus;" the "Way of God."
The Rev. Scott Elliott is the pastor at Riviera United Church of Christ in Palm Bay. Visit Riviera UCC's website at rivieraucc.org and his vlog at http://www.youtube.com/user/AGodVlog?feature=guide.