As someone who grew up in the church, I tend to get caught up in the "rules" of Christianity. The biggest one for me has always been love. "Love your neighbor as yourself." These famous words of Jesus were drilled into me as a child. I'm not sure if it was on my own or if I was taught this, but at some point, I came to think that loving your neighbor meant always being kind and polite and always having a smile on your face. I know I am not alone in this idea of "love."
Here's the thing: Love is so much more than politeness.
Politeness is not letting the door drop on the person behind you as you walk through it.
Love is stopping to hold the door open as the person behind you goes first.
Politeness is asking a friend how they are doing.
Love is caring about the answer.
Politeness is saying "please" and "thank you" to your waiter.
Love is leaving a very generous tip.
Politeness is an obligation.
Love is willing and flows from the heart.
You see, politeness is not bad. It just should not be mistaken for love.
My politeness in holding my tongue when a friend makes a racist, sexist, etc. joke is not love. It is not helping anyone. In fact, it is hurting most everyone.
My politeness in pretending I don't know that my friend has been talking about me behind my back is not love. It is lying.
Jesus did not call us to be polite. He was anything but polite when he called the Pharisees hypocrites (Matt. 23). He was not polite when he told the woman at the well that he knew how many husbands she had had (John 4). Jesus called us to love.
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Love is also not judgment. Just because it is not always polite does not mean it is rude. Love is never rude (1 Corinthians 13). It is not proud or easily angered.
My anger when my friend makes a racist, sexist, etc. joke is not love. Kindly saying something and pointing out that the joke could be hurtful is love. Love to both my friend who made the joke, and to everyone around.
My judgment to my friend who talks about me behind my back is not love. That situation should be approached gently and carefully, not with rudeness or accusations.
The point is not that love is some black-and-white rule that can be followed the same way in every situation. The point is that I do not have to let people walk all over me in order to love them. I do not have to hold my tongue when someone says something hurtful. I do not have to keep smiling so that others do not know I am upset. It is not loving to others, and it is certainly not loving to myself.
Politeness is not love. Don't confuse the two.