Love is an obligation.

“Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law” (Romans 13:8).

You owe love…it is an obligation. And there are no exceptions to this either. You owe love to the unlovely, to the mean and to the unattractive. What if someone doesn’t love you back? You still have the obligation to love. What if someone doesn’t want you to love him or her? You still have the obligation to love.

There is a wonderful Jewish legend about the location where the temple was built. There were two brothers, one was a bachelor and the other was married with many children, both farmers. At harvest time, the bachelor looked out over his fields and thought of his brother: My brother is a man with a lot of responsibilities. He has so many mouths to feed and so many expenses with his family. I’m going to take a large portion of my harvest to him for he and his family. He started out toward his brother’s house. Meanwhile, the married brother looked out over his fields and thought of his brother: I have been so blessed with my wife and my children. My brother has none. He must be very lonely. I think I’ll take a large portion of my harvest to my brother. He started out toward his brother’s house. At the very place where the two brothers met, that is where the temple was built.

I can hear you. You’re saying to yourself, Wait just a minute here. I don’t owe love to someone who has treated me like dirt. I’m not going to hurt him, but I don’t have to love him either. Really? What if God—and you were his enemy—had treated you the way you treat that person? Where would you be?

When I was a young pastor, there was a man who gave me some money. When I tried to repay it, he said, “Give it to someone else who has need.” That’s what God says: “I have loved you. You can’t repay me…but go and give it to someone in need.”

Love is the only obligation.

“Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:10).

We live in a manipulative society. The fact is, you aren’t anyone’s mother and you don’t owe anyone anything…except love. Love is sometimes hard though. C.S. Lewis wrote, “Love is as hard as nails. Love is nails…driven through hands and feet.”

You owe love. You don’t owe sentimentality. You don’t owe the manipulator what he or she wants. You owe love and sometimes love is as hard as nails. A mother who loves her child will not allow that child to play in the streets. A manager who loves his or her employees will require that they work. A God who loves us will sometimes appear not to love us.

Let me give you another wonderful quote from C.S. Lewis, this one taken from A Grief Observed: “The terrible thing is that a perfectly good God is in this matter hardly less formidable than a cosmic sadist. The more we believe that God hurts only to heal, the less we can believe that there is any use in begging for tenderness. A cruel man might be bribed—might grow tired of his vile sport—might have a temporary fit of mercy, as alcoholics have fits of sobriety. But suppose that what you are up against is a surgeon whose intentions are wholly good. The kinder (and more loving) he is, the more he will go on cutting. If he yielded to your entreaties, if he stopped before the operation was complete, all the pain up to that point would have been useless. But is it credible that such extremities of torture should be necessary for us? Well, take your choice, the tortures occur. If they are unnecessary then there is no God or a bad one. If there is a good God, then these tortures are necessary. For not even a moderately good being could possibly inflict or permit them if they weren’t. Either way, we’re in for it.”

And so love is the obligation, but sometimes love (agape love) will appear to be hard and strong. It is hardly ever insipid and weak.

Love is the consummate obligation.

“And if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Romans 13:9).

In other words, if you love people, you don’t have to worry about anything else. You will do the right thing in every situation. You ask, “But what if I don’t love them?” Let me tell you what to do. Ask yourself, if I loved that person, what would I do? Then go out and do it. Pretty soon your love in action will become your love in heart. And if you have trouble with love, go to the Father and just let him love you…just let him love you.

Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (John 13:34). Then Christ stretched out his arms and died on a cross. At least for me, it is only by receiving his love that I have any love to give to anyone else. It is only by being forgiven that I have any forgiveness to give to anyone else.

The Ten Commandments and the Apostle Paul begin with God. You have to start there. If you’re having trouble loving someone, don’t go to that person. Go first to the Father and let him love you...then you will have love to share. If you don’t like other people, don’t work at it. Go to God and allow him to show you how much he likes you…then you will be able to like others. If you can’t forgive someone, don’t try to drum it up on your own. Go to the Father and allow him to forgive you…then you will have forgiveness to give.

If you’re having trouble loving someone, don’t go to that person. Go first to the Father and let him love you

You can’t love until you’ve been loved and then only to the degree to which you’ve been loved. You can’t forgive until you’ve been forgiven and then only to the degree to which you’ve been forgiven.

It always starts there.

Time to Draw Away

Read Luke 6:27-36 & 1 Corinthians 13

How are you at loving people…even when they treat you like dirt? It’s hard, really hard. But what difference does it make in them? And in you? Love has great impact. So start with God. Pass on his love. You’ll discover that it gets easier.