“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”
According to the Old Testament, we are to love the Lord God with all of our hearts, minds, souls, and might. We are also to love our neighbors as ourselves. I have never been sure what that kind of love really looks like. Then one day I realized the above commandment Jesus gave tells us how we can begin to fulfill the Old Testament command. Essentially, the verse in John tells us to look at how Jesus loves and to use that as a standard for loving. It’s clear from both His words and actions that Jesus loved His heavenly Father, loved His friends, loved strangers, and loved Himself. It is also clear He loved His enemies.
What did Jesus’ love look like? It looked like spending time with His Father in prayer. It looked like trusting His Father even in the midst of storms, mistreatment, rejection, false accusations, and difficult tasks. It looked like resisting temptation. It looked like teaching, admonishing, and exhorting others. It looked like touching the untouchable. It looked like healing the sick, the lame, the blind, and the deaf. It looked like spending time with children, sinners, and the outcast. It looked like casting demons out of the souls of men. It looked like crossing cultural, gender, economical, and spiritual boundaries to invite all who would come, into a relationship with Him. It looked like being social and partying with friends. It looked like sharing openly His heart and seeking others where they were at. It looked like wrestling so hard He sweat blood over God’s will of the cross and His own desire to avoid it. It looked like choosing to obey His Father even in that severe state of angst so that He could reconcile us to Himself, which is in essence loving His enemies.
When we think of Jesus’ enemies, we tend to think of Satan, the Pharisees, those who mistreated Him, lied about Him, and who put Him to death. But, according to Romans 5:10, we were all enemies of God before we were reconciled to Him through Jesus. That’s such a sobering thought. If Jesus considered you and I His enemies when He chose the cross on our behalf, what right do we have to refuse to love those we call enemies? If we’re serious about loving as He loves, we must identify our enemies and choose to love them. They’re the people that aren’t for us, but are stand against us and the ministries we do. They’re the people who glare daggers through our hearts every time they see us. They’re the abusers who rob us of innocence or left bruises on both our bodies and our hearts. They’re those who criticize us, wounding us to the core of our being with harsh words. They’re those who refuse to see us, withholding love and compassion from us. They’re those who isolate us through slander or who kill or rob our joy on a daily basis. They’re those in positions of God-given authority who use their position to do great harm to those they should protect. Some even consider God an enemy. But, sadly, for many of us, our worst enemies are ourselves.
We must realize is that every person we hate is a person Jesus radically loved unto death. That same Spirit that loved you and I unto death indwells us and can empower us to love as He loves. The Spirit gives us the capacity to radically love when it’s humanly impossible to do so. It requires we bask in His love and choose to allow Him to love through us. As we are open to His working in our hearts and our lives we will become able to love with His love–and that is a love that knows absolutely no bounds. Have you allowed God to penetrate your heart with His pure and radical love? Is His love a reality in your everyday life? Does it help shape your attitudes, thoughts and actions? Does it overflow to those around you? Is it big enough to encompass your enemies?
Prayer: Father, thank you for loving us with your great love. Help us to meditate on it and let it shape our thoughts, attitudes, actions, and emotions. Help us to bask in the joy of knowing that we have always been, are now, and always will be radically, irrevocable, and eternally loved. Give us the desire to love like you have loved us. Give us humility and grace to see others as You see them. Give us wisdom in how to love in a way that invites others to more fully live in you light. Amen.