Everyone loves love.
But not everyone agrees on what love is.
Much of society associates love with tolerance and acceptance.
And while we can agree that love is good, truly having love for people is challenging. Yes, it’s easy to love family and good friends. Jesus addresses that in the Gospel of Luke: “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that (Luke 6:32-33).”
The Bible shows us what love is on the cross. “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).”
In 1 John 3:16-17, the Apostle John says:
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?
-1 John 3:16-17
It’s easy to agree with that. It’s easy to see the virtue in that.
But what an incredibly difficult picture of love that is. I don’t think that it exclusively means dying (the second half of the passage talks about helping those in need, which assumes someone is alive to do that).
Being apathetic to what people do, and calling that love, is easy.
Just saying you love people is easy.
Actually loving people is hard. Actually serving people is hard.
And perhaps the truest test of love is how we treat those who are hardest for us to love. Again, it’s easy to love those who are nice to us. It’s easy to love those we like.
But we’re sinful. And we all have those who are harder for us to love. Who is it who is hard for you to love? Maybe it’s someone who believes differently politically. Maybe those of another religion. Maybe it’s those who are rich or those who are poor and on the bottom of society’s rungs. Maybe it’s criminals or those who battle an addiction or have a mental disorder. Maybe it’s more than one of these groups.
Again, it’s easy, in theory, to agree that we should love everyone.
But whoever it is who’s the hardest for you to love is who you need to love. It’s a message that makes no sense to the world. And it’s a message that Jesus died to bring to the world.
Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear what you think, and don’t forget to subscribe!
Josh Benner is the associate pastor at Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church in Fergus Falls, Minnesota and has a Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He enjoys writing about faith and culture. He lives with his wife Kari in Minnesota.