As a writer who often delves into politics and culture, I still find it interesting how circumstances can change what we write or think about. Earlier this week, I reached out to my editor and received the green light to expound on a quote from C. S. Lewis about the nature of human love. But after a week of unspeakable horror in Baton Rouge, St. Paul, and Dallas, I saw the same quote in a completely different light.
There are two kinds of love: we love wise and kind and beautiful people because we need them, but we love (or try to love) stupid and disagreeable people because they need us. This second kind is the more divine because that is how God loves us: not because we are lovable but because He is love, not because He needs to receive but He delights to give.
It’s easy for us to love the people we’re closest to and who are most like us. That’s a given and a no-brainer. We often get so caught up in political positions and sound bites that we forget that God also calls us to love the ones who aren’t like us — the ones who often need love the most.
Jesus tells a parable that makes a tremendous point about how our love for each other manifests itself in the way we take care of each other — including the so-called unlovable:
Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’
37 Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? 39 When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
40 And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’
We are commanded to take care of each other. Jesus also calls us to love not just the ones who are like us, but also to love our enemies:
You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. 44 But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! 45 In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. 46 If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. 47 If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that.
Jesus calls His followers to love and pray for ISIS, the cop killers, abortion practitioners, militant atheists, and so much more! In our increasingly tribalistic world, that kind of love is revolutionary. (And, yes, it’s difficult.)
In one of their last moments together before the crucifixion, Jesus told his disciples how their identity as His followers should make its mark on the world:
So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. 35 Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.
Too often these days, the world knows Christians by expressions of disapproval, Facebook rants, and boycotts. Many people know Christians by what they’re against rather than by the attitude and action that should govern the lives of believers. Shouldn’t we try to change this phenomenon and let the world know us by our love for each other?
The events of the past few days have thrown a pallor of fear on so many people, and it’s easy to see why. But the Apostle John reminds us that God’s “perfect love expels all fear” (1 John 4:18, NLT). How wonderful would it be if we Christians could share that love and erase some of the fear that’s gripping our country?
God’s perfect, revolutionary love reminds us that all lives matter — black, white, rich, poor, young, old, male, female. I’ll close with a reminder of what that kind of love looks like:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails.
Christians, let’s take this love to the world, because this world needs it now more than ever!
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com / Skylines