Love On Whose Terms?

“A lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, ‘Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ He said to him, ‘What is written in the Law? How do you read it?’ And he answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.’ And he said to him, ‘You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.’

“But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’ Jesus replied, ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, had compassion. He bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, “Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.” Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?’ He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘You go, and do likewise.’” Luke 10:25-37

A prideful man would say that loving the Lord with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind, and loving your neighbor as yourself, is doable. It’s what Jesus required of the inquiring and capable lawyer. But pride puts a ‘me’ filter on that love, and accepts the mandate according to ‘my’ desire, my passion, my ability, my self-imposed limits, my want-to. The easy question the self-righteous lawyer asked was supposed to make for his easy justification, but turned out to be anything but. The Samaritans were outcasts, the hated mixed race, but the ordinary man- not the holy men- is the one who stopped, touched, cared, and spent on the one wounded. (2 Kings 17:24-41)

On our terms, we like to pick our assignments, and choose to love those who are lovable, with whom we connect and share in common. We understand, albeit with honest shame, moving to the other side of the road to avoid the bleeding, naked pagan. We excuse ourselves with fear of the unknown, risk avoidance, and possible social ramifications. But Jesus, whose immeasurable love for us stranger enemies reconciled us to Himself, requires love for Him first and on His terms. His love reaches across fences we build, and society’s boundaries, into lives that are distinctly different from our own. (Romans 5:10; Colossians 1:21-22)

Do I wholly love God? Whom has He placed before me to love that I am avoiding? When will I exchange my love terms for His? How will I show compassion, Christ-likeness, and selfless care today?

“Spirit of God, who dwells within my heart, 
wean it from sin, through all its pulses move. 
Stoop to my weakness, mighty as you are, 
and make me love you [and others]
as I ought to love.” ~George Croly (1854)

Amen.

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