Love

One of my friends posted something on her Facebook wall which said: "Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy." That, as these sort of things often do, made me stop and think. Is it true? Does it reflect what Jesus said? Does it teach me anything, or shed new light on anything I already know?

The first thing that struck me is that God loves us 'without stopping to inquire whether or not we are worthy' - because, by His standards, we aren't!

… There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, … Romans 3:22-23 (NIV)

That's all of us. Hitler, Stalin, Mother Theresa, Genghis Khan, Gandhi, the Dalai Lama, your granny, Al Capone, the Pope, the Apostle Paul, you and, most definitely, me. None of us are or were, fundamentally, any different, if the scripture above is to be believed. In our eyes, there are what we might term 'degrees of sinfulness' - we don't like to think of our grannies or the vicar in the same breath as Adolf Hitler, or to place them in the same category - that of sinner. But, from the perspective of God Almighty, that is the case. It may not seem fair to us - but that is, I suggest, because we don't really understand the breadth and depth of the gulf which sin, any sin at all, creates between us and God.

This sin, which spoils our relationships and separates us from God, has a remedy; the remedy is summed up very succinctly in John's gospel:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. John 3:16-17 (NIV)

If then, we believe in Jesus Christ as our saviour (and saviour of the world), we are supposed to be being continually transformed into God's likeness:

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is---his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2 (NIV)

So where does that leave us, and my friend's statement? Again, we can turn to scripture for an answer:

...the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.‘ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.‘ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:34-40 (NIV)

So it looks to me as though the statement posted by my friend istrue!

Having acknowledged that it is true, I must say that the 'job' is very, very, difficult... Certainly, I can love my wife, my son and daughter, my friends, etc, with comparatively little effort. But what about others - my ‘neighbours’ (i.e. everyone else)? People I find 'difficult' to get along with on a personal level? Those who bullied me at school until my life was a living hell? Smelly tramps? Mass murderers? 'Islamist' terrorists - suicide bombers and the like? Bankers? Paedophiles? God loves them all, just as much as He loves you and me. And He expects us to love them too.

We can be very confused about love. We often think only of love as being ‘in love’, and associate it with warm fuzzy feelings. I would say that that is a very restricted, narrow, view of love.Christian love is not a feeling, it’s a lifestyle choice. It is selfless; it is having respect for others; it is merciful, it is charitable; it is unconditional. It is giving to others the things you would want them to give to you if your positions were reversed - and it’s doing so even if you know they can never pay you back - one might even say it’s doing so especially if you know they can never pay you back.

Copyright Phil Hendry, 2021