Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Different Kind of Love

Recently a friend pointed out that those of us who claim to be followers of Christ are called to a different kind of love. It’s more than simply having compassion toward those who are hurt, oppressed, or otherwise mistreated. We are also called to love those who oppress… to recognize that they are people made in the image of God and, as such, they have value.

As much as we talk about love, I wonder if we are still in the beginning stages of learning how to live it in the way God desires. We are pretty good at loving each other– those who are like us in most respects. We may be doing all right at loving those who are suffering spiritually, physically, emotionally, and financially.

But how good are we at loving those we disagree with?

And how good are we at loving those who do things that are horrific and evil?

That is HARD to do. When I think of someone spreading messages that are damaging and not true to the gospel… or damaging a child physically or emotionally… or sexually exploiting a child… or walking into a school and killing six year olds… or abusing a spouse… or taking advantage of people who are vulnerable… my first reaction does not often resemble love in any way.

Yet there is something within me that whispers a quiet reminder that although the person has done a terrible thing… they are still a person created in God’s image, a person God loves just as much as he loves me… a person God can forgive just as he’s forgiven me.

It doesn’t lessen my heartbreak, it doesn’t take away from my compassion for the victim, it doesn’t decrease my feelings of horror over atrocities committed… it doesn’t stop me from speaking truth… but it does remind me that every one of us is human and every one of us is broken. And when I think about the compassion, mercy, and forgiveness that has been shown to me, grace I do not deserve and never could… it softens my heart toward the person who has harmed someone else.

Luke 6 says the following and I think it’s appropriate to this topic:
32 If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 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. 35 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. 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

How do we love our enemies? What does that look like?

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