Perhaps of all the commands given to the people of God, the command to love is both the most important and the most difficult. To love is to go outside ourselves, to look at and care for others and their needs. The flesh cannot love others. Love is the purest expression of the life of Jesus Christ within us.
Of course, as I say that, we all know that unbelievers can love, right? Let’s be honest. Unbelievers love their children. Some even love their parents and their neighbors. In fact, some unbelievers are more loving than some of God’s people. I know that we might suggest that their love isn’t true love… but we have to admit that some of our love isn’t true love either. In fact, what we call love in our lives is really not much different than what they call love.
So if even pagans can love, then how can we say that love is something only found in Jesus? The answer is in the love we don’t like to talk about. True love is when we love the unlovable.
Luke 6:27-36 ( NKJV ) 27“But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. 29To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. 30Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back. 31And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.
32“But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back. 35But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. 36Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.
Yes, the pagans love each other. They do love those who love them in return. They are kind to those who will advance their own agenda. They give generously to meet the needs of their own hearts. And so do we.
But we are asked to love the unlovable. We are asked to be willing to enter into a relationship with anyone the Lord leads us to, without regard for what that person can do for us. We are told to love those who may not love us back, who might even do wrong to us in return for our kindness. We are to follow the example of Jesus.
He loves everyone. He loved us while we were His enemies. When we ignored Him. When we disobeyed Him. When we took advantage of His kindness. When we laughed at those who loved Him. When we said we wanted nothing to do with Him. He still loved us. Are we really supposed to love like that?
John 15:12 ( NKJV ) This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
Yes, we really are supposed to love like that. Is it impossible? Yes…for our flesh.