What It Means To Love Others

In Matthew 22:36-40, Jesus gives us the Great Commandment, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

What is Jesus telling us in these lines of scripture?

I believe it means that love should be our response to life. To whatever comes our way, we are to love. That is how Jesus lived and that is how we, his followers are to live. Is it easy? No. I have my own difficulties with this, yet I know I am called to love all in all situations. That is why in the St. Francis Prayer, we prayer that where there is hatred we sow love. We pray this line, because we know that without God we are unable or unwilling to do it.

One commentary on this scripture says, “Love asks always for healing and growth, for what is best for us. In love for our neighbor as ourselves, this is what we wish—and what we pray for—for one another. The first great commandment sets out a series of values and orientation that leads us properly to the second. This centrality of the first Great Commandment sets us in a right place in terms of our relationship to one another. As Christ may answer that question for you, so you may come to understand what love may mean—for our neighbor as for ourselves. And as we grow in this understanding, so we may come to grow in the power of our prayer and love for others.”

We often think we are too small, too ordinary to plant the seed of love. That only people like Jesus, St. Francis, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr., and Desmond Tutu can act with love all the time. We think you must be a saint to live this line with any impact, yet we too can spread love in the grim reality of hate.

We can choose to love instead. It’s that simple and complicated.

Mother Theresa said, “I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.”

If we call ourselves Christians, is there anyone we can hate? Can we hate atheists, gays, Mormons, Muslims, mass murderers, rude or arrogant people? Can we hate anyone for any reason?

I like how Eugene Peterson translates Matthew 5:43-50.

“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.

“In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”

So, in light of Matthew 5:43-50 who is it we are to love?

I would like to spend a few minutes exploring the cold hard fact that God loves you. Not in some general vague way, but that God loves each of us personally. God’s love for us is so vast, powerful, and personal that if we could truly know it, not just in some intellectual propositional way in a truly experiential way know God loves us it would change every aspect of our lives.

I don’t anyone other than Brenan Manning who writes and speaks so eloquently about God’s love. Listen to his words.

God loves you as you are and not as you should be! Do you believe this? That God loves you beyond worthiness and unworthiness, beyond fidelity, and infidelity, that He loves you in the morning sun and the evening rain, that He loves you without caution, regret, boundary, limit, or breaking point? God’s love is based on nothing, and the fact that it is based on nothing makes us secure. Were it based on anything we do, and that “anything” were to collapse, then God’s love would crumble as well. With the God of Jesus, no such thing can possibly happen. People who realize this can live freely and to the fullest. It is a free gift. Jesus calls out: ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and find life burdensome, and I will refresh you.’ The gospel of grace calls us to sing of the everyday mystery of intimacy with God instead of always seeking for miracles or visions. It calls us to sing of the commonplace experience of falling in love, telling the truth, raising a child, teaching a class, forgiving each other, standing together in the bad weather of life, of surprise and the radiance of existence. Grace abounds and walks around the edge of our everyday experience.”  

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