Love, love, love.
Are you sick of it yet?
It seems like the point of everything we talk about eventually ends up in the same place; LOVE! We’ve gone through an entire Sermon series talking about love and with Valentine’s Day just having passed I begin to wonder if you feel you’ve had love shoved down your throats. If so, I have the perfect thing for you…more love! It seems now it’s as important as ever.
In Matthew 5:43-48 Jesus offers us some advice that is not easy to follow.
“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish— to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that. “In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.” – Message
“C’mon, Jesus! You’ve got to be kidding me, right!? Don’t you know, God, all of the trouble and systematic destruction that these people have been deliberately inflicting on me!? Can’t you see the harm that has been done? I know that you tell me to turn the other cheek, but to have to LOVE these scoundrels on top of it all…isn’t that asking a bit much, Lord?”
Trust me, I know this is no easy task. Jesus tells us to keep loving our enemies no matter what they do. Keep doing good to those who hate you. Keep speaking blessings on those who curse you. Keep praying for those who mistreat you. In our flawed state of humanity all of these actions are entirely counterintuitive. It’s so much easier to be bitter and want to retaliate!
Wouldn’t there be so much more satisfaction to watch their reactions when they realize how expertly I dished out their comeuppance? Eye for an eye, tit for tat, a taste of their own medicine. “Ha! Take that! Vengeance is mine, nemesis. In your face!” We tend to lust for the intoxication of putting someone in their place. Don’t believe me? Check out the comment sections on Facebook.
I’m so glad that’s not the attitude that God takes with us. Why can’t we get to the point where we are so thankful for God’s mercy and grace on our lives that we feel privileged to demonstrate that same love to our neighbors? Not just the ones who are like us. Not just the ones we agree with. All of them.
I bet that as you’ve been reading this you’ve already begun identifying some of the people in your life that you’re just not sure how you’re going to be able to follow Christ’s example with. Even with our best intentions we will unavoidably come across conflicts concerning racial, political, economic, moral, gender, human sexuality or religious issues. And though we can throw the word “love” around with flippant abandon, I am trying my best to imitate God’s sincere and unconditional love for all God’s people.
There are those who are ostracized, isolated and feel entirely alone in the world. There are also people who chase achievements and status that does not fulfill; accolades that satisfy for only a while. At some point in our lives we’ve all fallen into one of these or many other categories. God’s love has always been and always will be more than enough for us as well as for those we may consider unworthy of it.
Luke’s account of Jesus’ words in Chapter 6 verse 35-36 is this: If you want to be extraordinary – love your enemies! Do good without restraint! Lend with abandon! Don’t expect anything in return! Then you’ll receive the truly great reward – you will be children of the Most High – for God is kind to the ungrateful and those who are wicked. So imitate God and be truly compassionate, the way your Father is.
As always, doing the right thing takes practice and we simply cannot do it on our own. Don’t forget to ask for God’s help in loving and praying for those relationships that grate on you. Don’t hesitate to give it to God when you come across a newspaper article or a Facebook post that makes your blood boil. Only the spirit of God can give you the strength and peace to react out of love rather than pride. This is only one of a million issues I seek to improve on daily. Will you join me?