Living and growing: You can't love humanity

I feel like I should say something about the Super Bowl since I believe it is happening today. I know it is a football game, there will be great commercials and the Seahawks are playing. Now I’ve said something.


The last Super Bowl I kind of watched was in 2004 when I was the only one in the room to see Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction. I hadn’t watched any of the game until that moment and then I was the only person watching and no one believed me. Let me say that when your pastor says she just saw Janet Jackson’s breast on TV, it is the truth.

I played football a couple of times. My favorite time was with a bunch of drama majors right after we had taken combat mime so we forgot about the football and just kept throwing each other down to the ground. That seems like the fun part of football.

I don’t feel guilty for missing out on the football scene because I’m pretty sure that God loves baseball more. Why would anyone watch the chaos of football, when there is the lovely dance and order of baseball to look forward to? Of course, you are rolling your eyes now because people are always claiming God as an advocate for his or her agenda. Right now there are football fans and players doing just that and praying that God may help them defeat the opposing team.

I want to immediately say that God does not play favorites and asking God to side with us is silliness. But, that comes out of my American sense of fairness not necessarily out of Scripture. The God witnessed to in the Bible does love in particularity. Mary is addressed as “O favored one” (Luke 1:28), Noah is looked upon with favor (Genesis 6:8), King David is loved (2 Chronicles 6:42), and Jesus referred to a beloved disciple (John 20:2). Are others loved as well? Naturally, but the stories are not generic stories of kindness; they are stories about love of individuals through faithfulness and betrayal. They are stories of a God in love with people, not in a generic sense, but a personal sense. That’s the only way love truly exists. Of course, God speaks about steadfast love for all, but that’s lived out in the nitty-gritty of distinctiveness.

My favorite response to my kids when they whine about one of them getting to do something is to say, “I love him or her more”. That probably won’t get me any parenting awards, but it is funny to hear the other kids yell, “No you don’t mom!” And it’s true, I don’t love any of them more or less, but I do love them all particularly and respond to each of them uniquely. There are times that one has been more annoying or had too many sweets and isn’t going to get ice cream. It’s probably not fair, but it is still love.

One of the things that I love about the God who I see at work in Jesus is that this God loves people as people. Jesus doesn’t make sweeping remarks about how we should all love each other without also touching, knowing and loving the mess of humanity around him. Universal claims around justice or peace or love always make me nervous because they give one the sense that bigger objectives trump local relationships. As Graham Greene once wrote, “One can’t love humanity, one can only love people.”

I do believe God works in the particularities of life, not in sweeping gestures of grandeur. Love cannot be equally doled out and fairly given. It just doesn’t work like that. Sometimes it probably feels like playing favorites, I don’t understand how it all works. But I do realize that the call to love can’t be out of sentimentality for the world; it is a call to love people, especially the people we encounter in all the details of our living.


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