“If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” – Luke 6:32-35

Captain Phillips gave some leadership lectures after the film bearing his name came out. The film is about Captain Phillips and a Somali pirate named Muse. One is trying to hijack a ship for ransom, the other is trying to keep him from doing it. In that lecture Captain Phillips gave several bits of wisdom from the entire experience. First, we can’t solve new problems with old solutions. Secondly, successful leaders are flexible. Third, you are stronger than you think you are and fourth, vow to never give up, never quit, and sooner or later your situation will get better. While these are not novel or original ideas and they are also easy to say, it is so much harder to put into practice in a situation such as he faced off the coast of Africa. When faced with a difficult situation it becomes messy and exposes all our flaws. It is anything but easy.

I can draw the same conclusions about love.  It is easy to talk about love. Why not, love make sense to us. And more importantly we are commanded by God to love one another. But when we try to love one other, it seems to get a little messy and exposes our flaws. It is anything but easy. 

It is not surprising then that God would challenge us to be faithful in our love. When we read any number of passages in the New Testament we find ourselves with that expression you make when somebody says something you were not expecting. “Wait, what? Can you run that by me one more time? Do I get any credit for making the attempt?”

Here’s the bottom line: the kind of love that God models and requires is not intuitive, or natural. It’s not easy. God also wants us to love the people who are unloving and unlovely. This is the kind of love that reflects Christ’s love in the gospel. 1 John 4:7-11 says, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”

God has lavished us with His love. He then surrounds us with people who need that love. are just as needy of that love, and tells us, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12)  We should be willing to help the whole find find and follow Jesus by showing that love to others.   

The love that God requires from us is not natural; it takes work and it looks different. It is not the stuff that you read about in a magazine, or pick up in a romantic novel. It is different. And it is hard regardless of the circumstances.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Why is it hard to love one another?
  2. What difference does it make whether a person believes or doesn’t believe that God loves him or her?
  3. What are the unique characteristics of God’s love shown in Scripture?
  4. How does love take us beyond ourselves? Describe some of the stages that love goes through in becoming complete and mature.
  5. How can this duty to love others be a joy?