I apply for a job and get turned down. Someone else got it because the way things work there is that it is an “old boy’s club”, or I just wasn’t the right gender. I do not feel very loving toward those who have been unfair to me.
I’ve married for ten years now and there is a great distance between me and my spouse. It is very frustrating and lonely. I am in no mood to hear about loving your neighbor.
My mother has died and there is an endless dispute with my siblings about the will and who gets what from the estate. The arguments have been terrible I do not feel very loving right now.
My son married a miserable, spoiled brat and we will never get along! The only reason I speak with her is because I don’t want to lose contact with my son and the grandchildren. When I am with her, love is not the emotion I am feeling.
My boss is incompetent. And He has not made life at work very pleasant. He tries to micro-manage everyone and makes a mess of everything.
I am going through a divorce, and my Ex is being really nasty. Love is not the feeling I have when I am around this person!
Do any of these scenarios resonate with you? Yet, God commands, “Love your neighbor as yourself”, and in another place, “Love your enemies”. I wondering what the people I just described for you are thinking about these commandments.
Let’s take a closer look at what Jesus really means when he says “love your neighbor”, “Love your enemies”. When the word “love” is used in this context the best translation is the Greek word agape. This word doesn’t refer to emotions or romance; it means “acting in the best interest of others”. For us to love God with all our heart, mind and soul means to do what God wants us to do.
So when we say Jesus died for us, it means that he acted with a love which was in our best interest, even though it cost him. As a result of this, our sins are forgiven and we can now follow Christ and be with the Father in the next life. This kind of love, which acts in our best interest, is perfectly represented by Christ on the cross. He gave his life for us, and rose from the dead!
So, when Jesus tells us, “love one another”, it means “do what is best for one another”. We are to act in the best interest of the other person.
When there is a problem between a teacher and a student, and the child’s parents, the main question has to be, “what is in the best interest of the child?” The student may not like the answer, and may not be feeling loved at the time, but Jesus wants the parents to do the right thing for their child. That is love.
Here’s another example:
Once there was a couple who had a son in his twenties and a drug addict. The son was in jail again for drug use. The parents would always get him out, but this time they would have to put up bail, which means they would have to mortgage their house. They chose not to do that. Finally, they let him take the consequences of his actions. It was the most loving thing they could do for him.
And what about this “love your enemies” business? What if we’ve been deeply hurt by someone? A brother or a sister? What do we do? And sometimes we don’t see a resolution anywhere in the foreseeable future, and we certainly don’t want to get hurt again.
Well, giving in to anger and bitterness is not in your best interest nor is it in theirs. So don’t go over things a hundred times in your mind. The only result of that exercise is more anger and bitterness. It’s best to let go of all that and really ask God to help to do it. If you have to be in someone’s presence who has hurt you, well, just be civil. Jesus doesn’t ask you to somehow come up with warm and friendly feelings for that person. We can forgive a person in our hearts but that doesn’t mean we have to go out to lunch with them! Never the less, don’t be a person whose tombstone reads, “here lies a very bitter person who could not get over the unfair way they felt they had been treated”. So, to love as Jesus asks is. To act in the best interest of the other person but also in your own best interest.
We live in an imperfect world. We are imperfect people. From time to time we are forced to deal with difficult and unfair situations in the marketplace and in our relationships with family members. Christ offers us real and practical advice. These words of his are not just pious sayings. Loving as Jesus asks can be the best way for ourselves and for those we have thought were our enemies.