A question I have been wrestling with lately: How do I love? How do I love people? I mean seriously. Have you ever thought of that? People are tough to love. Can we just be honest here? It’s easy to love people that love you and agree with you. But what about those people that bug you? Annoy you? How bout those people that persecute you and hate you? How bout those that go out of their way to show their disdain for you? That show their contempt for your life? I mean those ones who dislike the fact that you live.
The world loves to talk about love. The Beatles sang that song “All We Need Is Love”, and while I would agree, I doubt very much they knew how to do it. Most people I know and those that I see on t.v. or in the news talk about love but know little how to practice it, because when it comes right down to it they can’t love people that differ from their own opinion. If they don’t agree with someone then more likely than not they distance themselves from those people and have no relationship with them whatsoever.
I’ve done it. Let me just confess that here and now. I’m guilty of this sort of conditional love.
We say this, “I will love but from a distance…a far, far away distance. To the point where I can’t even see you or do anything for you.” Is that really love?
The world’s definition of love is off.
I like God’s better. God’s love is personified through His Son. Jesus said, “No greater love has any men than this: to lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) Yes, Jesus laid down His life for His friends, but did you notice He also laid His life down for His enemies? While on the cross He pleaded with the Father to not lay any charge against those who were crucifying Him.
“Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)
I like God’s definition of love better because I was once an enemy of God. God was not always in my thoughts. In fact, He wasn’t there at all til one day He invaded my thoughts and showed me how much He loves me by pointing to His Son.
Oh how beautiful the sacrifice! How beautiful the sacrificial love of Christ that He would die for me!!
It is a real test to one’s capacity to love when faced with people who are unlovable.
I can’t think of a better illustration of this than a story as told by Corrie ten Boom in her book The Hiding Place. After the end of the war, Corrie receives many speaking invitations around Europe and the U.S. One place she frequented was in the former Nazi Germany at a time when the country laid in ruins. She describes feeling a great weight whenever she entered Germany.
After speaking on the love and grace of Christ to the German people in a church service in Munich, a man approaches her. She recognizes the man immediately as one of the S.S. guards who tormented and mocked her and the other prisoners as they removed all their clothing in the processing center of Ravensbruck. At that moment, anger and thoughts of revenge filled her mind. Not a moment ago, she was talking about the love of Christ and now it was like her message meant nothing.
The man stood in front of her with a different face than what she saw in Ravensbruck. This face was beaming. He stuck his hand out to shake her’s and she says she couldn’t bring herself to raise hers to meet it.
“How grateful I am for your message, Fraulein. To think that as you say He has washed my sins away!”
Corrie silently prayed, “Lord Jesus, forgive me and help me to forgive him.”
She tries to raise her hand again and still no feelings of warmth or love toward the man.
Again she prays a most honest prayer, “Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give Your forgiveness.”
In that moment she grabs his hand and a spark of warmth fills her and overflows to him. She is overwhelmed with love for this man who was once her enemy.
In the last page of the book Corrie writes a truth we all need to learn when loving unlovable people. It is not you who can love. It is God’s love through you.
“And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself.”
I am no more capable of loving my neighbor without the love of Christ. If I am trying to love people and I find it burdensome, then maybe I’m using my own limited love. If I find myself struggling to love my enemies, then maybe I haven’t really allowed myself to be the conduit of God’s love.
“If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us.” 1 John 4:12
My prayer is this: That I will abide in Him continuously and His love may be perfected in me for the purpose of being the conduit of His love to a lost and hurting world.