Pepperoni. Sausage. Peppers. Onions. Mushrooms. Bacon. Pineapple. Extra cheese, please!
Black olives. Broccoli. Artichokes. Spinach. Jalapeños. Avocado. Anchovies?
What do you like on your pizza?
In our family, pizza gets complicated. We’ve got two who will only eat plain cheese, one who hesitantly adds some pepperoni, one who sticks to the basics of “meat lovers,” mushrooms and onions, and one who wants to add as much “flavor” as possible. Pizza night for the Desilets is a make-your-own endeavor – and no complaining if one of my artichokes happens to “contaminate” your piece of the pie!
Taste is a weird thing. Though at its core all pizza is the same – crust, sauce, and cheese – what we do after that to make it our “own” can get a little crazy. If you ever want to see how different human taste buds can be, set up a pizza bar and watch people go. And then watch everyone turn up their noses at everyone else’s choices!
Loving people is hard. Because people are weird. If everyone would just start being “normal” (a.k.a. do things the way I think they should be done, see everything the way I see it, and like all the things I like) we wouldn’t have this problem, right? 😉 If I’ve learned anything in my 40 years of life, I’ve learned that “normal” doesn’t exist. Even the people we think are the most “like” us at first end up leaving us scratching our heads in confusion!
In the book of Romans, Paul challenges believers to allow the love of Christ to transform them from “insolent, haughty, boastful,…foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless” worshipers of people and things (1:23, 30-31) to “genuine”, “devoted”, “honor[ing]”, “joyful”, “patient”, “faithful”, “shar[ing]”, “bless[ing]”, “peace[ful]” worshipers of God (12:9-17 ESV/NIV). If God’s most important command is to love Him and love others, then we are being transformed (12:2) to do just that.
How interesting that all those things on the first list – all things that hurt other people – stem from our worship of people. When we place a human, or even the image of a human, on a pedestal, the result is pain. Feeling let down by their lack of ability to be what we had hoped they would be, we turn against them. Without God as our God, we expect to get from others what only He can give – and when our desires are left unfulfilled, we turn inward and take, take, take, which is the opposite of love.
But as believers, filled by the Holy Spirit with the love of Christ (5:5) and a “renewed” mind (12:2), we are free to worship God alone. We don’t expect anything from anyone because we already have more than everything we’ll ever need in Christ. And we can take people off their pedestal and stop expecting them to be “normal” (a.k.a. do things the way I think they should be done, see everything the way I see it, and like all the things I like), which frees us to love them.
When Tim and I met, we believed we were a “match made in Heaven”. We had so much in common and were each so happy to finally find someone who was “normal” (a.k.a. did things the way we thought they should be done, saw everything the way we saw it, and liked all the things we liked).
But a few years into marriage, the pedestals came tumbling down when we realized how different we really were! We thought we were basically the same person, but it turns out we have very different ideas about everything from how much light is needed in a room at any given time of day, the “best” way to get from point A to point B, the definition of “on time,” the prioritization of household projects, how “free time” should be spent, what “listening” looks like, and how “disagreements” should be handled. The more I get to know my husband the more weird he becomes!
The key to loving people, as Paul points out in Romans 12:3, is to think of ourselves and others with “sober judgment”. Forming a “balanced” and “God-controlled perspective [that] blends the extremities of truth on both sides of a matter”* means accepting that I am not the baseline by which all others should be judged. It means accepting that I’m just as weird as everyone else. Yes, I may even be weirder than my husband!
When Jesus walked this planet He was able to genuinely love every person He came in contact with because He didn’t worship any of them. He didn’t put any human on a pedestal and as the Creator-in-the-flesh, He was able to see through all the “weird” to the true baseline of “normal”: He saw every person He encountered as simply a human being created by God and loved by God.
At our core, we’re all cheese pizza – we are all human beings created by God and loved by God. But after that things start to get weird! We all have different personalities, tastes, styles, opinions, responses, and methods of doing things and expecting any person to be “normal” is a fast track to putting them on a pedestal and thereby causing pain.
“Sober judgment” of ourselves paves the way for love to “be genuine” (12:9). When God takes up all the room on our pedestals, living “peaceably with all” is possible (12:18). This love thing is hard, but when I, charged up by the Holy Spirit, see myself and every person I make eye contact with as created by God and loved by God, it’s much less weird!
But really, what do you like on your pizza? Leave a comment!