In the late 1960’s the New York Subway system had a terrible problem. People were walking around confused as to where to go because the signs were so bad. 

The Transit Authority hired Massimo Vignelli and Bob Noorda to solve their problems. And they did. They created the, now famous, New York City Transit Authority Graphic Standards Manual in 1970. 

The standard nailed down colors, text, fonts, where to place fonts, and names and subway lines and it’s been in use for almost fifty years now. 

Lots of people are walking around confused in religion, specifically Christianity, today. They are wandering toward bad signs and trying to figure out God, themselves, others, the Bible, and a host of other things. I’m the first one to raise my hand and say - yep, that’s me! 

But it seems the signs have been terrible. Or maybe we just ignored the standard that was created: love. 

As much as we want to make something more to it, there isn’t. It’s just love. Period. 

We really really really want to add a but to love. 

Love, but

they are pedophiles
they are terrorists
they are evil
they need to be corrected
God is just too
God is wrathful
the Bible also says

It’s just love. 

And frankly, some of the most offensive passages in the Bible are all about love. I’ve learned that love, actually, is very offensive. Maybe the most offensive thing. 

It’s very offensive to say that God loves Hitler as much as Billy Graham. It’s very offensive to say that the God loves ISIL as much as those who recently died in Orlando. 

It’s very offensive to say that love never fails and always trusts and is patient… and everything else in the list from 1 Corinthians because none of those words could be used to describe Hell. 

And, for some unknown reason, it’s very offensive to say that God will not torture people forever because that is, in no way, love. 

It’s very offensive to be told that we are just supposed to love. 

And yet, it’s one of the most freeing, simplifying, beautiful things on the planet. 

Difficult? Yes. Inspiring? Yes. Evil? Not in any way. 

Here are some verses that are in the actual Bible. If someone made these up and gave a sermon on them, they would be called the devil by many Christian groups. 

If you do not love, you do not know God.

When Jesus talked about knowing God, he was talking to a bunch of people who said that they prayed, prophesied, performed miracles and all that good stuff. He says get out of here, you never knew me. 

Saying a prayer is not knowing God. 

Loving is. 

Jesus also said that everyone loves their friends. That’s not what we’re talking about here. 

A bigger, wider, all inclusive love. 

If we love one another, God lives in us.

I assume there is where the idea of inviting God into our hearts came from. But the thing is, we don’t invite God into our hearts with words. We love and God fills our being. Or, better, we love and become aware and acknowledge and start to know the God in us.  

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.

A pretty amazing blend of the human and the divine seems to happen best, when we love. 

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

Hell is all about fear and punishment. Using Hell to convince anyone of God actually has nothing to do with God. In any way. 

Going around the world being the fear and punishment police for society and individuals is not love. 

Whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.

Loving God is generally considered the thing. The end-all-be-all for many spiritual people. If you can not love ISIS, you can not love God. If you can not love homosexuals, you can not love God. If you can not love, Westboro Baptist, you can not love God. If you can not love evangelicals, you can not love God. If you can not love Donald Trump and Republicans, you can not love God. If you can not love Hillary Clinton and Democrats, you can not love God. 

I think we get it. Plus, you know, I don’t want to convict myself too much. 

There are no groups, justified or not, we are not to love.

And, a reminder, love is patient, love always trusts, love keeps no record of wrongs. 

Now, an important addition I’ve learned recently. Love does not mean we ignore our allergies. 

I have a good friend who is allergic to sugar, brewer’s yeast, and gluten. She can’t have alcohol, candy, or bread. And she doesn’t. 

Some of us have allergies to certain people. They are bad for us. They damage our soul when we ingest them and, therefore, we are not to ingest them. 

However, my good friend is thrilled when I enjoy a beer with her and her husband. She is happy that some people can eat handfuls of peanut M & M’s while she can not. And she smiles at warm bread out of the oven and the smell of it. 

She loves sugar, and hopes that people enjoy it for all it was meant to be. She, however, does not eat it. 

He destroyed your heart. You can hope to love him and you can hope that someone can enjoy him for the man that he is, if he can find that self, but that does not mean you continue to date him. 

She does nothing but heap shame on you. You’re never a good enough parent, never a good enough boss, never a good enough wife. You can hope to love her, and you can hope that someone can enjoy her for the woman that she is, if she can find that true self, but that does not mean you continue to have morning coffee with her. 

Allergies exist. They are real. They are toxic. They rob you of life and you have to create a life that avoids them while still hoping for love to win someday somehow. 

And believing it already does with God. 

So, love. 

To love ourself is the most difficult thing to do on the planet. 

To love others is easily the second most difficult. 

And if you are able to do either of those even somewhat successfully, someone will hate you, and then loving that person will become very difficult.