Over And Beyond
November 5, 2008
OVER AND BEYOND
How do you love when you don't want to?
I have been thinking a lot about love lately. Not the "romantic, just received a dozen roses" sort of love. Not the "first look at a new baby" sort of love. Not even the "cooperate with my Christian sisters and brothers" sort of love. Instead, I have been thinking about the "I have been betrayed by a friend or falsely accused of something shameful" sort of love. The kind of love that Jesus exemplified and that I am still learning to get my mind (and my actions) around.
Here is my challenge. As much as I try to practice unconditional love, I love best when I can feel it. And yet, I know the true test of my commitment to loving my neighbours comes when I do not feel love—when I am forced to deal with someone who has hurt me or someone I love, when demonstrating love means loving my enemy.
Jesus tells us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Reading through that scripture recently, another verse—Matthew 6:47—came to my attention: "If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others?" The question plagued me for days. What more are you doing than others?
Then, it hit me.
Through faith in Jesus and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, I have the capacity and the responsibility to choose to love all people in all circumstances every day—whether I feel it or not. We all do.
But the willingness to love with the selfless abandon described in Scripture still seems unattainable when I am confronted with circumstances that stretch my boundaries—challenging what I think is right or comfortable or fair. I am saddened to admit the frequency with which I put my best thinking—and my best interest—ahead of Jesus' call on my life to love others, even though I know what He wants from me.
Paul wrestles candidly with this in Romans:
"For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me" (Romans 7:18-20).
"Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin" (Romans -25).
So, what does it take to love God, love our neighbours, and love our enemies? We can start by taking Paul's lead—going beyond the command and calling out to the One who commands us. In doing so, we need to:
• Commit ourselves to following the example of Jesus and ask Him to increase our capacity to love—whether we feel it or not.
• Recognise that Christian love should extend beyond our sense of what is right or comfortable or fair and be willing to do things differently.
• Engage Jesus, and let Him do in us what He promised to do.
The next time we are asked, "What are you doing more than others?" perhaps we will have an answer beyond, "Absolutely nothing."