Study: Are there people in my life right now who are hard to love? What is it that keeps me from reaching out to them?
Pray: Ask the Lord for the wisdom and courage to love.
Serve: How might I reach out to someone in my life today? Who is the Lord calling me to love?
Love is one of those words that easily gets overused in our everyday language. We “love” our moms, ice cream, pets, a good movie, favorite song, significant other, piece of clothing, the newest electronic, or any of a thousand other things.
But we don’t “love” them equally. Many of these things we “like” a lot, and in our desire to show how much we like something we might want to stress the point with the word love.
Love can and does mean many things, but I would like to suggest today a simple definition: to want the very best for another. To say “I love you” can mean that because of my love I will do everything in my power to offer what is best for you. To say “I love you” includes:
- giving what is good for you (rather than what you might want)
- making sacrifices so you can succeed
- being kind and gentle when you don’t deserve it
- forgiving you when you have hurt me
- being present when you are not a lot of fun to be around
- putting your needs before my own – because I value you
Love is not for the faint of heart! At its core love reveals how we value others and vividly displays how we will freely choose to act on those values. Love reveals a fundamental commitment to people and a willingness to see the goodness in another.
That sounds good for people we care about, but Jesus pushes this point to the edge: what about our enemies? What about those who are difficult, belligerent, awkward, hostile, cruel, and unpleasant? Can we love them?
One way to test this point is to ask a simple question – for whom am I willing to sacrifice my life?
Some come naturally to mind – people in my close family, dear friendships, “loved ones” who make a difference in my life. But there are others:
- distant family members (who sometimes get under our skin)
- strangers & those not like us
- those who are hard to love
- those who actively dislike/irritate/aggravate/hate/are cruel to us….
You get the idea.
This question is important for one simple reason – Jesus did this. The Lord sacrificed his life for all of us, not on our best day but our worst. Christ showed the depth of his love by offering his life for us; his death on the Cross and resurrection are the means of our salvation.
In other words his love is revealed by his sacrifice for what is best for us.
And that is our example of love. In this command Jesus presents us with something that calls for complete transformation. He calls us to a radical care for others that will demand our very hearts. He calls us to be like Him.
Now I offer one caveat: love also requires respect, dignity, and justice. We are not called to be doormats that others harm, nor are we expected to tolerate evil. We stand up to what is wrong and defend life (this is also part of the command of love). But the point remains – do we care for others in such a way as to show our value for the gift of life? Do our words, thoughts, and actions reveal our fundamental respect for the souls (created & redeemed by God) of others?