Not to brag but I find it incredibly easy to love God.
I mean, really, it’s just not that hard to love Someone who,
- sent His Son to die for me
- through faith has made my salvation possible
- assures me of a heavenly home
- promises me rewards for simply doing the right things
- gives me the ability, through His Spirit, to do the right things
- is always correct
- never lies to me
- never deceives me
- loves me more than I can imagine
- things I’m worthwhile
- listens to me without fail
- _____________ (add your own favorites here)
Loving God? No problem.
But there is a related problem. It appears in Jn 13, what is sometimes called Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer. It’s good that I’m not a Greek exegete because, if I were, I’d try to find a way to make it read differently than it does.
Here’s what it says:
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (vv 34-35).
It’s a problem because John tells us that we know we love God when we love other believers. If we say we love God and hate other Christians, we don’t – as in DO NOT – love God. That’s 1 Jn 4.20. You can look it up.
I get curt, impatient, and downright angry with Christians. In fact, I get more upset with Christians than with non-Christians. Unbelievers have a hard time doing the right thing for the right reason – they can do it at times, of course, because they do bear the image of God – but believers really have little excuse. We have God’s revelation to tell us what the right thing is and we have the Holy Spirit to enable us to do it.
I am more forgiving and tolerant with new believers or those who have not been discipled properly. Those who should know better, however, are at the top of my list when it comes to being objects of my dismay, disappointment, and – I’ll admit it – derision and disgust.
But that really is beside the point, isn’t it? Jesus calls me to love other believers, i.e., to desire what is best for them and to provide it if possible. He doesn’t qualify it with exceptions like “if they’re being obedient” or “if they’re living up to their calling” or even “if they are being loving.” He just tells me to love them.
That doesn’t mean indulging their sinful behaviors or looking the other way. It means I confront when confrontation is necessary and even excommunicate (formally or informally) if repentance is lacking. It means that my purpose and goal in all my dealings with a sinning or repugnant brother is to restore them to fellowship with God and other believers.
That should come naturally for me – it’s part of the image of God that I bear and that is being renewed within me – but due to the fact that I, too, am sinful, it doesn’t happen like it should.
But that’s my calling. And to that calling I aspire, moving toward it in the company of other believers who somehow, by God’s grace, find it possible to love someone as unlovable as me.