Have you ever seen the coexist bumper sticker?
You know, the one with all the different world religion symbols that spell out ‘coexist’?
To coexist is to exist at the same time or in the same place and the philosophy the bumper sticker is selling is that to accept all world religions as truth means the best interaction we can have with others is to merely ‘coexist.’
For me, coexisting is to settle for far less than what God intended for us in the interactions with our neighbors.
God wants us to love people.
The Bible says so much more about our interactions with others; and it goes well beyond occupying space next to each other. For when we love people the way that both God loves us and He calls us to love others, it’s then that we will transform this world.
To love people is to…
BE with them. “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.” John 17:18. Jesus came with a mission to announce that it is possible for us to BE in relationship with Him, and He likewise calls us to BE in real relationships with others. In a world that is pulling more to isolation, pursue connection and relationship with others.
FORGIVE them. “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” Matthew 6:14. In a world of revenge and payback, go against this trend and forgive those who sin against you. It’s amazing how walls break down and opportunities arise when we start our relationships with grace and not judgment.
SERVE them. “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” Galatians 5:13 So many use their gifts, talents, and freedom to serve their own purposes. What changes the world, and surprisingly what also brings us the most fulfillment this side of heaven, is when we use what God has given us to serve others.
GIVE to them. “Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.” Matthew 5:42. In a country where money is our number one idol, followers of Jesus have decided not to live close-fisted, but open-handed, knowing that our money goes places and impacts people that sometimes we ourselves can’t physically go or impact.
GO to them. “And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” Matthew 10:7. There is good news that followers of Jesus have. When you share this news and connect it to how God has moved in your life, you give hope to a world that is constantly looking for hope but sadly clinging to things of this world, which will leave us empty in the end.
When you love people according to these 5 principles, you are more than coexisting. You are making a difference eternally.
If this is hard and seems unnatural or uncomfortable for you, you’re absolutely right. It isn’t natural for us as humans. This is something we must practice, learn and develop.
Consider child interpersonal development…when babies and toddlers interact around each other child professionals will call this interaction ‘co-play’. Because of their undeveloped intrapersonal skills, they stay relatively isolated in their play, and simply coexist near each other. They haven’t yet learned how to play with other kids. That’s a skill they must learn and develop. As they get older they begin to learn to communicate, share, watch and learn from each other, throw a ball back and forth, play more games involving others.
Just like children, as we grow in our faith and understanding of Jesus we can and should also grow in our interactions with others. It may be difficult or hard at first, but the more you practice it the easier it becomes.
That’s the wonderful thing about God. He has so much more for us in life than just coexisting, He has love. Love is something so beyond coexisting. And He never calls us to do something He hasn’t already done.
He loved us by:
BEING with us. “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever.” John 14:16 Not only did he come down in human form 2000 years ago, but He lives in us still today through His Holy Spirit.
FORGIVING us. “But God showed his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8. He came down and paid the price for our sin not while we had it all figured out, but while we were still a mess. There is no greater forgiveness story in the world.
SERVING us. “even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:28 Jesus was a King unlike any others. He could have set up an earthly kingdom like no one else, but stuck to His Father’s will because He came for a greater purpose, to set up a heavenly kingdom that involves you and me!
GIVING to us. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 This most popular verse shows us that His perfect love was displayed by giving His one and only Son. And Jesus gave His life for you and me.
GOING with us. “It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Deuteronomy 31:8 As you go and speak, know that the same Spirit that rose Jesus Christ from goes with you and will even speak for you when you don’t know what to say!
Something so beautiful and wonderful comes when communities love each other like Jesus rather than just coexist with one another.
So forget coexisting! God made me for more. As hard as it might be, I’d prefer to be loving.