“We instinctively tend to limit for whom we exert ourselves. We do it for people like us, and for people whom we like. Jesus will have none of that. By depicting a Samaritan helping a Jew, Jesus could not have found a more forceful way to say that anyone in need – regardless of race, politics, class, and religion – is your neighbor. Not everyone is your brother or sister in faith, but everyone is your neighbor, and you must love your neighbor.” ― Timothy Keller, Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just.
As believers, we want to make a difference for Christ in the world. We want our life and legacy to count for something with eternal significance. We want to stand before God one day, knowing we have fulfilled the purposes He had for us. But there’s always this nagging sense inside that says the world’s problems are too big, and we’re too small, so we will never live a life that’s beyond the ordinary.
If we are serious about living a life that goes beyond the ordinary, then the best place to start is with your love. It’s no coincidence that Jesus told His disciples that the world would recognize their relationship to Him by how they loved one another. In other words, love is a visible and often tangible symbol of our spiritual relationship with God. The problem is that ordinary love falls well short of God’s extraordinary love.
Ordinary love is willing to love its neighbor, but only to a certain degree. We’ll do specific chores for our neighbors, and we may even go out of our way for a really good neighbor. But the idea of loving my neighbor as much as I love myself seems a little far-fetched. Ordinary love stays in the comfort zone, while extraordinary love does not. Ordinary love loves those who love us back. If you love and treat me right, I’ll love you back. But that’s not the kind of love believers are called to exhibit.
When Jesus said, “Love your enemies,” there must have been a collective gasp from the crowd. No one, religious teacher or rabbi, had ever uttered those words. The religious leaders must have quickly dismissed the idea because no one can do what Jesus is asking. It is hard to argue with that. Loving your enemies isn’t something that comes naturally, but what Jesus was asking them and us to do is impossible without God. But with God living in you, you can live above the ordinary and love your enemies.
The kind of love that goes beyond the ordinary is a choice you have to make. It’s not determined by the actions, attitudes, looks, or abilities of the one you are called to love. You can love your enemies because you’ve experienced the love of God.
The real question here isn’t who are we to love, but how do we love? Jesus gives us an example. He says perfect love is the kind that prays for those who persecute you. This kind of love is willing to ask God to bless the lives of the people who seek to harm us. This love acts like God’s love by repaying evil with good. When the world sees this kind of love manifested in the church, we will see real change in people’s lives.
- How important is love to human beings? Why do you think it is so important?
- Are we a “display window” for the supernatural love of Christ? How do your actions reveal the depth of your love for people?
- In what specific ways can you practice loving others well this week?