Today in the heat of our running over our new rules model for KidLIFE a kid asked “does that mean we should love bad people, too? Like people who do drugs?”
I wish I could say I handled the question with fluidity and ease, but I decided in the split second between being floored slack-jawed and my response that I would redirect with “well when I say we need to be loving I’m talking about this room and the way you treat people here.” And yes, before you say it, I realize I bombed it. In that moment I bombed the answer.
It wasn’t until I went to rest my head on my pillow tonight that his words came back to my mind. “Like people who do drugs?” It’s so sad to me that kids learn so early that there are labels and actions that can somehow make them not worth loving. As if one thing you can do, one habit, deems you unworthy of love. Children give love at its purest form. It isn’t until later in life they learn to be so selective on loving others. Adults give them reasons why we shouldn’t love people. But long ago people got the word “like” and “love” unchangeably confused. We don’t have to like the way people do things. And trust me, there have been moments today that I have let my “like” control my love, and looking back it broke an opportunity for me to love someone who may not have been otherwise.
Brown. Yellow. Blue. Black. Or white. Doesn’t determine if you should be loved.
Strong. Weak. Tall. Short. Doesn’t determine if you should be loved.
Addicted. Redeemed. Transformed. Stuck. Complacent. Content. It doesn’t decide if you are worth loving.
You. Are. Worth. Loving.
There was a time in my life where I harbored a secret. Something I couldn’t tell anyone. I knew if people knew then they would know I wasn’t worthy of love. I was wrong. People didn’t change their opinion of my. My secret was trying to cut me off from love because it knew I couldn’t feel worthy of love of hold onto my shame at the same time. I traded my worth for a heart full of shame. But I found some people to tell and I found ways to hold on to the belief that I was worthy of love. For a while I wore a bracelet with the Swahili meaning “is worthy”. Every time I saw I would say to myself “Brooke, is worthy.” On the inside of the bracelet I engraved the Greek word commonly used to call someone in to the ministry. It sat on my skin as if it were whispering to my soul. You are called. You are loved.
Jesus told a story once of a wayward son. He ran as far from His father’s household as he could. He squandered and destroyed his worth and value. He took on titles that stripped him of being worthy to stay in his father’s home. He decided he would return as a lonely servant in his father’s house. I’ll butcher it so read this below. . .
“20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.” – Luke 15:20-24
What do we do when we lack the value, the title of worth? We return home to our Father’s house. We confess and allow Him to mend our broken pieces. Heal our hearts, our story, our worth. We once were lost, worthless, bad people. But now we have been found worthy.
Because you are called. You are loved. Not because of the things you do or say or think. You are loved because you are. Because a God in Heaven loves you. Values you. Wants to redeem you. You are more than your addiction. Your race. Your story. You are more than the things someone has done to you or the story you have written for yourself. You. Are. Worth. Loving.
But Worthy Souls, let us not miss the other person in this story. Once redeemed, found, restored with worth. Let us not become the brother of the parable. Let us not judge or hold people to their past, their mistakes, their old story. Let us rejoice and join them in their healing, in the restoring of their worth. Because we have all been “bad people” as that little boy has learned. We have all had our share of bad deeds. Let us instead focusing on stripping the harmful labels and replace them with titles of value. We are people of worth. Value. Called. Redeemed.
If I could do today over I would have stopped for a moment and done it all over again. Because we shouldn’t be teaching children to let “like” rule our “love”. We should be teaching our children that worth and love are found in Jesus, not in labels.
So yes, little boy, we are called to love the people. All of the people.