My mind has been in many places, but lately I'm stuck on a spiritual quandary. With the Bible having so much to say about loving one another, why is it we, not only Christians, but humanity in general has such difficulty loving? I think it is safe to say the one thing most people want in this world is to be loved. Maybe, this is followed by a desire to be heard and valued. But, loved must be number one. Granted this is not a result of a straw poll or anything, just a half century of life experience informing me.
As Christians, at least we know, when we feel most unlovable ourselves, we have a Savior who loves us unconditionally and who will never forsake us. Imagine the pain and isolation, the desperation, of those who do not know our Jesus in these trough times.
I have been observing behavior lately. the head turn at the pan handler (whom I was later told buys a steak dinner every night with the money I just gave him), the awkward pass by the blind man or down syndrome child - outcast in her culture, the snickers, the stares, the whispers at the expense of the transexual, beautiful, homeless, lost. The angry outbursts in retaliation for someone who mistreated another. But, Jesus was quite clear. We were all made in God's image, yet we are all different, and no one escapes the love of our Lord Jesus. We are called to love, even those who may be challenging to love.
In Bosnia, among the first to be ostracized at wartime were those who married outside their ethnicity. During a war of "ethnic cleansing," this made a division of loyalty impossible. Those who did so wound up in the Christian churches where all were accepted, friend and foe. All were loved, though the rest of the country persecuted them and still does, in some cases. Jesus said,
"You're familiar with the old written law, 'Love your friend,' and its unwritten companion, 'Hate your enemy.' I'm challenging that. I'm telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.
Matthew 43-47, The Message
I heard a statistic once. Something like 90% of the world population believe in a higher power. 90%! That includes those who claim to be atheist. So, when it comes down to the terminal medical diagnosis or the mayday call on the airplane, even the resistance joins the ranks of those with "foxhole" religion. "Okay, if there really is someone up there, I could use a miracle right now!" It's a start. What I'm getting to is this.
One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[c] There is no commandment greater than these.”
So, if 90% have the 1st commandment down, so to speak, where did everything fall apart on the second one? Let's not even go into the wars! We'll be here all day. What about our families. Bullying in school. Simple acceptance of those unlike ourselves. Prisoners. People who've made colossal mistakes and want a second chance. The God of second chances would give them one. Why won't we? We all have a story. We are more than the sum of our behaviors. We were made in God's image, called to love those who are "seemingly" unlovable. Its a trick, a trap. There are no such people. We can choose to forgive, love from afar. We can love a complete stranger outcast by their culture. We can emanate the love of Christ in a myriad of ways, if we ask God to show us how. It is the second commandment in a world gone crazy with hate. Of course there is an implied message in all of this. "Love your neighbor as yourself" meaning, it is assumed you love yourself. Is that where you need to begin? Is that where we must all begin?Mark 12:28-31
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.
No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
[ More on Love and Hatred ] For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another.
[ God’s Love and Ours ] Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.
Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.
Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other.
And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another.
[ Love Fulfills the Law ] Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ.
Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,
[ Final Greetings ] Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.
[ Suffering for Doing Good ] Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic,love one another, be compassionate and humble.
And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.
[ Life by the Spirit ] You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh ; rather, serve one another humbly in love.
[ Thanksgiving and Prayer ] We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing.