“I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least.” -Dorothy Day
Think about the person you just can’t stand, the person that hurt you, the person who rubs you the wrong way. Do you have a clear image of them? Are you feeling all those negative feelings for them? That’s how much you love God.
Ouch! If you’re anything like me (human), several different people came to mind just now. The above passage is from a book I am reading by Father Larry Richards titled Surrender! The Life-Changing Power of Doing God’s Will and let me tell you, it is kicking my behind! In this section of the book, Father Larry talks about the only commandment that Jesus ever gave us: to love.
“I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” -John 13:34
I know we’ve all heard this verse and the lesson to “love one another” countless times before, but some times we (especially I) need to think about it again and in a new way. How easily we all read and accept this verse without truly understanding what it means for us! Even more difficult is to remember this instruction of Christ when we are being called to put it into action. You see, the difficulty for us arises because Jesus didn’t say to love only those we feel good about loving. He didn’t say, “Love those who love you, who are nice to you, who are kind and good-hearted.” Neither did he say to only love those who are good people, who follow God’s teachings. Just the opposite!
The Son of God, our Savior and redeemer, commanded us: “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” As He has loved us… So, how has He loved us? What does this commandment mean? It means authentically loving those people who came to mind when you started reading this post. That is how God has loved us. Despite our sin, even though we constantly turn away from Him, while we continue to choose things other than Him every day… He loves us. He loves us, His disobedient and deviant children, so much that He gave His life that we might live. Even moreso, He continues to forgive, and forgive, and forgive all the ways that we hurt Him because He loves us. This is the type of love we are called to. This is the type of love that will prove how much we really love God.
Remember that saying, “Love the sinner, hate the sin”? Who is it for you? Who do you find hard to love in your life? Who do you find hard to love as a Christian? You and I have got to become the ones who bring love into this world that does not know love!
The person who cuts you off in traffic when you’re running late: Love them!
The person who annoys you the most: Love them!
The person who gossips about you: Love them!
The person who insults you, ridicules you, and makes fun of your faith: Love them!
The person who doesn’t believe in God: Love them!
The person who hurt you, lied to you, betrayed you, and left you broken: Yes, you must come to love them too.
I never said it would be easy. Jesus never said it would be easy. But it is what we must do if we are to be followers of Christ; if we desire eternity with Him.
Now, loving these people does not mean that we condone any wrong or hurtful actions that they do or may have done, but rather we love them in spite of those actions. Loving them means that we show them mercy when we want to hold a grudge; that we give them kindness when we want to give them scorn; that we show patience when we want to get angry. Above all, loving others (all others) means surrendering how we want to treat people and living out how Christ wants them treated.
Father Larry says:
“Love is hard. It is not like we hear in all our modern love songs. Love begins when you are willing to lay down your life for the person on the bottom of your list, the one you can’t stand. That is love. I like to say that we begin to know what it is to love like God when we start to hope that the person we can’t stand the most gets to sit right next to us in heaven for all eternity! What a hard thought. This is why we need God’s Amazing Grace. It takes the God of the Universe to love others in us and through us. That person on the bottom of your list is someone whom God loved and gave his life for. He tells us, ‘I want you to be my instrument of love to that person.’ And we respond, ‘Oh no, I don’t think so.’ But God encourages us, ‘That’s what I want you to do. I want you to be love in a world that does not know love.'”
Who are you being called to love in your life? I know who the people are that God is calling me to love, even though I don’t really want to. Will you take up this challenge with me? Will you join me in loving as Christ loves? If we do this, if we all do this, we really can bring light to a world that is so dark. They will know we are Christians by our love. So let’s start loving.