You’re probably saying (along with me), “Let’s not. I know about that already.” Let’s talk about it anyway.
Jesus said, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).
Right after Jesus said that to his disciples, Peter responded, “Lord, where are You going?...Why can I not follow You now? I will lay down my life for Your sake” (vs. 36-37).
You see, Peter didn’t want to talk about love either. It’s sort of like Peter wanted to ignore what Jesus just said in order to focus on something really important. “Yeah, Lord, we know about the love stuff and, of course, that’s good and all, but let’s raise an army, let’s fight, let’s organize! After all, we have a world to win.”
Peter wanted to do some big things for Jesus. Jesus wanted Peter to do only one thing: Jesus wanted Peter to love the other disciples. In fact, Jesus said that if they got that right, the other stuff would take care of itself.
We don’t love well. We don’t get along. I’m a Christian who has been loved, accepted, forgiven, and changed; but there are times when I still want to “come out swinging.” And if we Christians can’t get along, nobody else can either.
We talk a lot about love, we know that Jesus was big on love, we study the texts that tell us to love, and we try to love…but we don’t love much. Don’t get me wrong. We love the people who are like us, who agree with us, who support and affirm us. But, as Jesus told us, even the pagans do that. And we don’t have that much trouble loving them either. They aren’t close enough to irritate us. So, loving pagans is not a big problem as long as they leave us alone.
It’s loving those unlovely Christians…now, that’s hard.
I have a “hit list” as a part of my prayer list and I’m determined to love everyone on that list. They are all Christians and, of course, don’t deserve my love, but I’ll love them anyway. I’ll try to get them to see the truth, to repent and to ask my forgiveness, and then I’ll overwhelm them with my love.
Once I love them all, I’ll teach you how I did it.
What do you mean, they don’t deserve your love?
They don’t. Lord, you should meet them. They…
I have met them.
Well, of course, you have. But you have to understand that…
I do understand.
I know. You’re God and all. I mean you are love. That’s what you do. It’s much harder for me.
It was hard for me too. The cross was not only my intention and my heart. It was my pain.
Okay. But what about these Christians who hate me, criticize me, don’t understand me, and simply refuse to see the truth? And then, Lord, when I reach out to them, they just don’t care. They have disvalued, dishonored and abused me, Lord. They are really hard to love.
I know. You were like that and sometimes still are.
Wait. We were talking about them, not me.
No, you were talking about them. I was talking about you. And speaking of you, why do you have to be right? What do you have to protect? Why is it so important that they ask your forgiveness?
That’s easy. I want your name honored. I’m for justice. I have convictions about truth.
Uh…sorry. Maybe it’s me that I want to protect. Do you think that my lack of love is because I’m more concerned with what people think about me and about my being right than about you?
Of course, I’m not angry. You’ve been telling people that I’m not. Maybe you ought to listen to your own teaching. And, child, that’s the secret. If I love you no matter what, if I can still be patient with you after this conversation, and if I am unconditional with you, you can be that way with others. The secret is allowing me to love you. Don’t look at them. As long as I love you—and I always will—you don’t have to be right, you don’t have to pretend to be good, and you can bless those who curse you because they might be right. Okay?
Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you. Love one another.”
Time to Draw Away
Read 1 Corinthians 13
How do you measure up? What conditions do you place on your love? Whatever your answer, grace already has it covered. In fact, it’s God’s grace and love that give you the ability to love in the first place. The principle is this: You can’t love until you’ve been loved and then only to the degree to which you’ve been loved. So rest in his love—really rest there—then go out and love others. You’re in for a surprise.