By Greg Aitkens
Jesus replied, You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself. The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments. ( Matthew 22:37-40)
We might say, now wait a minute! Are you kidding me? Jesus is saying we are commanded to love the people who were:
- Rude, discourteous, offensive, and hurtful?
- Cranky, moody and out-of-sorts anytime we are around them?
- Control freaks, always demanding to get their own way?
- Vicious, negative, or even nasty?
- Arrogant, superior, just above-it-all, with no concern for others?
- The know-it-all, who just has all the answers to everything?
- Stubborn, defiant, and do not see perspectives other than their own?
- Cheaters and betrayers who violated the promises they made?
- Glad handers who love to talk and make promises, but do not follow through?
- Not part of our tribe? They were very different from us in style, process, methods and focus. It was like oil and water to be around them, with nothing in common?
What? Love the people who did bad things to us? Love the people who wounded us? These Scriptures help us to understand our Christian call in love:
- This is my commandment; love each other as I have loved you (John 15:12) Jesus gave His life for us. He practiced sacrificial love. Can we do the same with others, by listening, helping, encouraging and being kind? Who needs this kind of love today? Are the people who acted badly around us prime candidates for this kind of love?
- For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: Love your neighbor as yourself. But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another. (Galatians 5:14-15) Are we continually critical of others, only seeing their faults? Do we gossip about others, and focus only on their shortcomings? Can we see their positive qualities as fellow children of God?
- Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against a fellow Israelite (another person), but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord. (Leviticus 19:18) Isn’t it easy to bear a grudge, and want to get even– for the offender to feel as much pain as we do? Isn’t it easy to judge others, and far more difficult to attempt to reconcile, apologize, or restore the relationship with offender’s?
- Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.( Romans 12:9-10) God is calling us to real and genuine love that goes far beyond being hypocritical and polite. Genuine love calls for concentration and effort. It’s so easy to “write others off.” (We want nothing to do with this person ever again?) This kind of love demands our time, money, prayers, and personal involvement.
- If someone says, “I love God”, but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, who we cannot see? And he has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their Christian brothers and sisters.”(1 John 4:20-21) These are challenging words for all the people right around us, especially those who have offended us, or hurt us in some way. I have heard it said that withholding love and forgiveness turns our worship into a sham. I’m sure none of us want that!
- So I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” (Luke 13:34-35.) Love is revealed in action. How can we love others as Jesus loves us? By helping when not convenient, by giving when it hurts, by devoting energy to other’s welfare rather than our own. Action includes absorbing hurts from others without complaining or fighting back, or plotting revenge. This kind of loving is hard to do. We need the power of our Lord and his Holy Spirit, his supernatural graces poured out in us!
How do we love others, especially our past offenders?
- Pray and Intercede for others, especially our offenders.
- Love and forgive our offender’s anyway— knowing that doing so is really good for our own wellbeing. Deciding to forgive is a definite way to PROVE our love for others. We truly become a disciple of Christ.
- Do our best to reconcile with anyone who has wronged us. Clearing the air and burying the hatchet really will really free us up, and deliver us from any bondage to the past.
- Look for the best qualities in other people. Begin to look at others through the “eyes- of-Christ.”
- Forward a worthy email reflection of interest to others, hoping they are doing well. This exhibits the kindness of Christ in us, for the benefit of others.
- Send a friendly greeting card in the mail. In our “electronic world”, we rarely receive a card wishing us well.
- If possible, arrange a friendly lunch or meet for coffee— just to say hello and catch up. Restorations and forgiveness can happen over a coffee!
- Send a book you think they would like. This may create an opportunity for a regular dialogue, to comment on the book. A relationship may get restored and renewed.
- Call our offender’s on the phone, just to say hello and wish them well. This also may be an opportunity to apologize for our own words or behaviors.
- Jesus’ words here…This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends, if you do what I command. I no longer call you slaves, because the master does not confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me. You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. This is my command: Love each other. (John 15:12-17)
For Your Consideration:
We have all heard the expression: “love the sinner, hate the sin”. This is easier said than done. It’s really hard work to love and forgive. We do remember the harsh words and behaviors causing hurt within us.
Jesus commands that we love each other, despite what has happened. It has helped me a lot to try to understand why others did what they did. In so many cases, the offender’s were in the midst of unresolved pain themselves, and were just lashing out at others. This has caused me to want to pray and intercede for them and muster (increase) in the same empathy, compassion and mercy that our Lord has poured out on us.