Proverbs 17:17a says “a friend loves at all times”. Well, that sounds easy enough and of course i do that. i love my friends even when they sometimes tic me off i still love them. We share life together, we laugh together, cry together, have meals together–now if that isn’t love what is?
1 Corinthians 8:1 says “love edifies” and 13″4 says “love is kind”. Yes, i know those verses. i encourage my friends whenever i can and i’m certainly always kind to everyone–well almost always–so i have this love thing down pretty well?
OK< so what about Matthew 5:44 which says “love your enemies”?
Yes i’ve read that but it doesn’t apply to me for i really don’t have any enemies. Of course there are people who hate those of certain groups and maybe there are some who hate a group i might be a part of like a race or political party or gender or religion etc. but these haters don’t know me and i don’t know them so i need not be concerned with that “love your enemies” thing.
What about that pesky neighbor who comes over frequently to borrow something and stays for hours telling you about the dysfunctional family in which she grew up and now finds her own family dysfunctional?
That’s different. She’s not an enemy. She’s just a pest and we don’t have anything in common. i wish she would move to some other state or better yet to some other country. Yes, i would like that. Some other country and i would be rid of……Oh, i see what you mean. How can i love an enemy if i cant even love a pesky neighbor. Ummmm. Maybe i don’t have this love thing down so good after all. i realize now that i love those i like but not those i dislike. So what can i do about it?
Love can be experienced. i’m not talking about romantic love–which seems to just happen when we meet someone with whom we connect–or familial love which occurs naturally in families, even in dysfunctional ones to some degree. i’m referring to agape love–the kind God has for us.
i can experience that kind of love? i think that would be a great thing. Tell me how.
i think their are three steps in the challenge of experiencing this kind of love. First we need to get to know ourselves. Now you might say you know yourself. You know what and who you like and dislike and that’s correct. But do you know why you get angry when things don’t go your way? Do you know why you feel resentment when a peer receives a promotion you thought you would get? Can you explain why you are unreasonably offended when you learn you were not invited to a party given by one of your neighbors? And what about that pesky neighbor? Could it be that in each of these cases you are thinking more about yourself than of other people? Perhaps there were reasonable explanations why you were passed over for promotion and not invited to the party but you took things as a personal offense.
Yes, now that you mention it there have been occasions like that when i’ve felt hurt and resentful and certainly unloving. I do need to look inside myself and see why i allow those things to affect me negatively. But these instances don’t have anything to do with enemies. How can i ever learn to love my enemy even if i had one?
This “love thing” as you put it encompasses those around you and those afar, those in your intimate circle and those you have casual contact with, those who are “loveable” and those who are cranky and obnoxious or just pesky neighbors. Even those you have never seen and will never see. This agape love must be all encompassing. It includes all mankind–the good and the bad, young and old, those who are white and those who are of color. Psalm 139: 23, 24 invites God to look into our hearts and minds and see if we have any hurtful (unloving) ways residing in us. Allowing God to search our innermost being is the beginning of knowing ourselves for He will make us aware of our shortcomings. When we see the flaws in ourselves–as well as the good–we can begin to love ourselves and not only that we can begin to see other people more clearly and begin to love them, too. That brings us to the second step in experiencing this agape love. Do you pay close attention to other people when they are speaking? Do you listen to their words, observe their facial expressions, notice their eyes? Or do you think about what you want to say when they finish speaking? We can learn much about others if we minimize ourselves and turn our total attention to them. Philippians 2:3b tells us to associate with others with humility of mind regarding others as more important than ourselves. This does not mean we are less important than the person with whom we are speaking. It means for this time, as we speak with another, that we put ourselves aside and devote ourselves to the other person. Christ emptied Himself as He ministered to His followers. We can make a conscious effort to do the same–to minimize self–when we are interacting with others.
The third, but most important thing, is we must remember what Christ did for us and think about the great love that drove Him to do it. We must picture Christ in the garden agonizing over the events that would soon take place in His life. We must imagine the indescribable pain He suffered as He hung upon the cross to take away the sins of all who believe in Him. We must hear the words He spoke as He suffered there, “Father, forgive them”. We must remember the stone that was rolled away and the Christ who lives today making intercession for sinful man. What a glorious Christ who willingly endured the cross and the tomb to make us who believe partakers of His divine nature and eternal life. How can we not experience all encompassing love when we truly understand how great a love He has for us.
Psalm 119:109 says “my life is continually in my hand”. This means we can live it anyway we choose. But the verse goes on to say, ” Yet I do not forget Thy law”. His law tells us to love God and to love our neighbor. Who is our neighbor? Everyone. Just imagine what peace would reign in the world if all of its inhabitants had agape love for each other. Yet i think God did not command us to love in order to make a peaceful world. Only He can bring that about. He commanded us to love knowing that our own personal peace can be achieved only when our hearts are filled with love. In “Daily Secrets of Christian Living”,Andrew Murray teaches that “the very nature of love is forgetting oneself for the sake of others”. That is Christ’s love for us.
Until next time.
Blessings and peace.