The word “love” is a good word. It makes us feel warm inside. However, there is an aspect to God’s love that challenges us. It is the challenge of who we love. It is the challenge of how we love. For God “love” means more than we might yet understand.
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘AN eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40 If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. 41 Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you. 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.Jesus in Matthew 5:38-48
There is so much here that I am not sure I can talk about it all, but let me highlight the call of Jesus in the love He describes here.
Jesus calls believers to:
- Give MORE after someone demands something from you.
- Seek to bless (love) those who HATE you.
- Be committed to bless BEYOND what the lost would understand or copy.
Think about these three statements… Jesus says that we should, “turn the other cheek… give away our coat… go a second mile.” All of those choices are AFTER the person, “slaps us on the right cheek… takes our shirt… forces us to go one mile.” This is not the same as letting someone walk all over us. This is not the same as being a pushover or door mat. Those are passive reactions to bullies. No, Jesus is asking us to take action, but it isn’t the expected action. We aren’t to be passive. We are to be intentional. Pushovers don’t say anything. Pushovers suffer in silence. This is different. This is choosing to grab the coat that is ours and offer it to the person who knows they took from us. This is offering to serve someone out of love after they have taken our service out of spite or convenience.
The Apostle Paul declares that when we do such a thing we, “heap burning coals upon their heads.” (Romans 12:20) In other words, intentionally loving like God does will make those who run over or mistreat people uncomfortable. Either they will feel guilty, or they will be confused by our response. However, Jesus doesn’t appeal to the desire we have to make a difference in our enemy’s life. To what does He appeal? He appeals to the character of God. He says that God makes the sun and the rain come to everyone. He doesn’t just give good gifts to those who love Him. He gives those gifts abundantly to everyone! Jesus then asks us to be like the Father. He tells us to be perfect (in this context He is referring to how God loves) just like the Father is perfect.
This is the call and challenge of love. It is a call to be more. It is a call to love more than just anyone does. It is the call to love a group of people that is larger than just anyone does. It is the challenge to be honest about the limits of our love. Do our limits reflect God’s limits? Do we let our trust in God’s justice and providence free us to love the unlovable in our lives? Who is that for you? Will you seek to bless those people anew this week? Think about how your personal world would be changed if the Christians in your world lived this way. Then, think about how the larger world would be changed if Christians everywhere lived this way. Is it any wonder that Jesus urges us to love like God?!
It’s something to think about!