“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” Luke 6:27-36
Jesus’s “but” sets up the contradiction that is Christ-like love. It does not make sense, but it makes a difference, and brings eternal glory to the One Who is its Source. And isn’t this how the Christian is to be motivated in this world, to invest in what lasts forever? To do good for, to bless, and to pray for those who hate, curse, and abuse us seems nonsense, almost anathema, when we are in the center, which is our tendency to insist that we be. The greatest challenge to love is removing self from life’s pedestal and acknowledging Jesus on the throne. (Matthew 6:20)
Jesus’s offering of Himself for us was infinitely costly, and our offering of love to Him will be the same. But in His economy, the cost-benefit is beyond imagining because it is wondrous and eternal. The trouble for us is that we extend our love in measured doses, afraid to ‘run dry’ and unwilling to give beyond what we’ve allotted or what another will give in return. But Jesus said, there is no greater love than that we lay down our lives for our friends. Compared to laying down a whole life, what is an afternoon, a meal for companionship, my time for a conversation or an activity that is what someone else wants to do, foregoing my pleasure for another’s needs?￼￼ (1 Chronicles 21:25; John 15:13)
To love the unlovable, to give to those who can never repay, to show what mercy looks like to those who have wronged us or someone else, to go out of our way to help the helpless and ungrateful, is how Jesus loves. He pursued us, the ungodly, and poured His saving love on and into us. His heart is now stamped in blood red on the rock that is our salvation, and being so loved, we must love His way. (Romans 5:5-8,10; Ephesians 2:1-5)
Lord, enlarge my heart for the beggar, the gruff, the antagonistic, to love them so well they see and love You.