How hard indeed is it to simply love others for who they are! I am constantly flabbergasted by stories I hear about ‘Christians’ who are possessed with the need to convince others of their sinfulness and to pronounce their destination as hell and the burning in thereof. While this approach may ensure we feel we have done our evangelical duty, it seems to me, it does little for the kingdom of God. Daily I meet people who are hurt, angry and completely dismissive of God and his love all because they have been ‘heavied’ with a narrow version of the Gospel. Often these are people who need someone to care for them and to stand beside them while they are going through great trials, yet because of their negative experiences they turn to alternatives without even considering God and his love for them. The two great commandments implore us to love God and then to love ourselves as God loves us and then to love others as we love ourselves. Perhaps the key is that, for many of us, we are unable to love ourselves in the same way God loves us. This self-loathing concentrates on our sinfulness and, more dangerously our guilt, to such an extent that our pronouncements to others lack love because we have not experienced that love for ourselves. If we took the time to delve deeply into ourselves we maybe confronted by the fact that we still see ourselves as unlovable. But we don’t go there. The idea that someone had to be punished because of my sin, misguided though it maybe, is not loving but judgemental and we take that sense of judgement into our encounters with others. Thus we can move from ‘God loves you’ to ‘you will burn in hell’ without any compunction. In the midst of this we then wonder why people are dismissing the Gospel, the Church and ourselves and name it sin and persecution. It’s not. It is a distancing based on experience, the experience that we don’t actually love them enough to share their lives, to be real, to be human, to be of use to them. They know unless they agree to our view of the world they are non-peoples, people who it’s ok to send to hell. So why would they come? Our challenge is to be real about the Gospel, to live the message in our day to day lives in a way that resonates with the reality of others lives and to welcome them, where-ever they are on there journey home to God. And, perhaps, have enough faith in God that he knows what they need and will provide the way home for them. He’s done it before it seems.