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My, oh my, love is difficult. I don’t mean to say that it is difficult for the Lord. He’s God, after all, and is the perfect personification of love. Although nothing is too hard for Him, His love for us did require the humiliation and offering of Himself in painful punishment and sacrifice. We will not understand the fullness of that sacrifice until eternity.

But loving you, Christian brothers and sisters, is challenging. Sometimes your quirks and idiosyncrasies are annoying. Sometimes you are offensive. Sometimes you say and do things that are so at variance to what I believe that I don’t know how to respond. Sometimes, well, I just don’t like you very much.

Of course, you feel exactly the same about me.

This is why the Bible so frequently talks about Christians loving one another.

It’s tough.

Jesus knew that loving others would be demanding. In the well-known passage about not self-righteously judging others and not treating them like pigs, the very next thing Jesus told us is that we would need to ask for help to do just that:

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:7–11). 1

I understand that most of the time, this passage is not taught as an antidote for our incapacity to love adequately, but we really should read it in context. Here is the verse immediately following Jesus’ admonition to ask for help to love others. It’s called the Golden Rule:

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” His thought flow in verse 12 is still addressing love for others.

Then, following, another warning about how arduous this is:

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matthew 7:13–14).

Boom. Five truths about what love demands right in a row. Don’t judge people self-righteously and do understand that you’re a sinner, too. Ask for help to do this. Treat people the way you want to be treated. It’s going to be difficult, and few will be able.

If you would like to continue reading this chapter in context, you will find that the next passage refers to knowing how to tell false prophets from true: their fruit. Think that fruit would include love? Of course. Inwardly, false prophets are “ravening wolves.” Does that sound like love to you?

All the disciples who wrote in Scripture addressed the topic of Christians loving Christians. John, in his first letter, wrote words that challenge our Christian walk to the core:

“By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother” (1 John 3:10).

“Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:8).

“We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death” (1 John 3:14).

So, if you don’t love your brother, you’re not of God, don’t know God, and abiding in death.

All love, sooner or later, will require sacrifice.

I recommend we follow Jesus’ admonition to plead for help in loving others. That’s what I do.

A lot.

 

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

Gif courtesy giphy.com

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