Probably the biggest struggle we have as Christians is this business of love. We don’t have a lot of problems with the “big stuff”—murder, adultery, bank robbery—the “shall nots.” And we give lip service to this idea of love and say that we truly do love our neighbors. The problem is we don’t really know a lot of these people we are being asked to love—the different people who have moved into our circles of existence, the people we are being asked to walk with in community. It’s hard to love what we don’t understand. They are not our enemies—they are just “not us.”
Jesus encountered a lot of different people in his walk. He encountered those who were outright opposed to him, and sought to discredit or harm him, those who were just curious about him, those who expected something from him, and those who were struggling to understand him. He loved them all. With his dying words, he asked forgiveness for those who had brought about his death. He told those who asked for direction that they should love God first, and then love their neighbor. He reduced all the commandments to just those two, and in the order in which we are to practice them. How can we truly love God and not love the rest of God’s creation?
The same issues that confront the church today are the ones that confound—the business of loving people who are alien to our faith, our lifestyle, our culture, our sense of exclusiveness. We will love people if they are willing to change, to be more like us. The hard part is loving them, and showing them our love, when they remain so different from us. Some people are more lovable than others. Some are just naturally easy to love; others take a little more effort. Still others offer us no reason at all to love them. But Jesus does not allow us to be selective.
- What do you think Jesus meant by his statement to the scribe, “You are not far from the kingdom”?
- Is love a discipline that can be learned?
- Do we prefer to practice “checkbook love”—giving money when we learn of a need—rather than getting involved personally?
- Did your church help a needy family or families at Christmas? If so, why not continue to keep in touch with them to see if there are other ways you can help?
- Read Paul’s chapter on love (1 Corinthians 13) every day for a week to learn more about love.
- Find out if your community has English classes or literacy classes for those who need help learning our language or who cannot read and write. Volunteer to help a few hours a week.