This is Dooley (hi Dooley)!
Dooley was a stray kitten afraid of everyone. Now he's an adult and afraid of everyone except me and an extremely short list of other people. He nags me at dinner time. He nags me when it's time to go to bed (somehow he grasped the time change).
But when I first brought Dooley home from rescuing him from his homelessness, he hissed at me. He spat. He did not love me. After two days of this, I lectured him that no one would like a hateful cat, and if he expected to have house privileges, he better change his attitude. Strangely it worked.
Dooley stopped hating me. When I saw him next, he laid down and flipped over on his back and showed me his belly, doing that weird cute thing with his head that cats do to let you know they are actually charming beings.
I was wary, but it turned out that he meant it. Ever since then, he sleeps on my bed every night. Now at the age of ten, he sleeps on it every day too, which is worrisome for the comforter's hair threshold. I love Dooley. I am just crazy about him.
Jesus said that to love God with our whole HEART, MIND, SOUL, and STRENGTH. Those are four different things! Then he said, to love our neighbors as ourselves. Neither of these are easy. But if these two can be kept, then keeping the Big Ten are easy. LOVING GOD isn't easy, and throwing in our feelings, our logic, our illogic, and our personality into it full stop is even more radical.
How can it be done?
By realizing how much God LOVES US. He takes us in as strays, who spit and fight him. He cares for us unconditionally. If we decide to trust Him, believe He is who He says He is, to understand that He sacrificed his one and only Son, for US, we get eternal house privileges. As lousy as I can be, God loves me more. Even when I change my attitude and love God, I still mess up. And only through His own power can I love other people....my annoying neighbors....the man who talks too much, the woman who is standing in my way....the child who will not stop shrieking....
We can't hate and love at the same time. We can be annoyed, we can disagree, we can be confused, but we can't hate if we are saying that we love. If I help the poor, I can not hate the rich. If I have compassion for the refugee, I can not hate the policy enforcers. If I disagree vehemently with world leaders, I still can't hate them if I say that I follow Jesus, who loves the unlovable. In my humanness, I hate. But I have to give it up - it must be sacrificed. And in my spitting imperfection, God pulls me close, whispers Jesus' name, and reminds me I'm forgiven, to go and sin no more. To love my neighbor as myself.
Considering how much I like me, this is a challenge. But it's a life changing, world flipping mandate to love radically which can be done through God's own power.