Sometimes love is awkward. Sometimes the things God asks you to do out of His love seem bizarre. But you can still choose to love and be known for your love.
Years ago, my cousin died from Cystic Fibrosis at the age of 25. His was the first death in my very large family, and it hit us all particularly hard. After his funeral, I stood in the church, crying … and noticed my uncle’s wife, who notoriously steered clear of family events.
I walked up to my aunt and hugged her. While I was in the middle of squeezing her tight, I clearly felt the Holy Spirit saying, “Tell her you love her.”
Now I KNOW this was the Holy Spirit, because, quite truthfully, I didn’t feel like I loved her at all. The impulse to declare my love to someone who didn’t give me warm fuzzies wouldn’t have come from me.
But I obeyed. And without hesitation, in the middle of our hug, I said, “I love you!”
This only made my aunt cry harder and cling to me even more.
When love is awkward
I have no idea why the Holy Spirit asked me to do that on that September afternoon. I have no idea what it might have done to my aunt. She later divorced my uncle and I have no idea what’s happened to her.
But I do know I was asked to love the unlovable. And even if it seemed awkward or bizarre, in that moment I chose to obey and love.
Sometimes love IS awkward. Sometimes the things God asks you to do out of His love seems bizarre. And it’s with that same awkward, bizarre, but radical type of love that we can consider Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount.
When so many people today are ready and willing to end relationships and move on, Jesus calls his followers to something that seems awkward and bizarre. Jesus calls his followers to love and forgive and keep their promises.
As we learn in Matthew 5, Jesus gets to the very heart of the matter. Bypassing what’s seen from the outside, he gets to the core of huge topics like adultery, divorce, vows, being sinned against, and loving your enemies and shows that they’re all related.
Marriage involves forgiveness and keeping your word and loving the unlovable. Commitment, vows, and promises all involve trust, integrity, and faithfulness.
When love doesn’t come naturally
As I’ve pondered Jesus’ teaching, I’ve felt especially moved – and convicted – by what He taught in verses 43-48:
I could try to tell you 10 practical ways to live this out, but in doing so, I’d feel like a hypocrite. It’s not easy to love your enemies. At all. And it’s not easy to be kind to those who treat you with nastiness. For humans, it doesn’t come naturally.
Just because I told my unlovable aunt that I loved her, that happened once more than 20 years ago. Is this a daily occurrence where I overlook my annoyances or how I’ve been wronged and bubble over with love? Unfortunately it’s not.
Do we want to love the very people who oppose us? No. But we’re called to do it anyway.
This echoes throughout the Sermon on the Mount. In the Beatitudes, Jesus promised blessing when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on His account. He gives us yet another reminder to love in the face of opposition and adversity.
If we, as sinful, imperfect people are asked to do this but know we can’t, what are we supposed to do? Know that we don’t want to love our enemies so hold a grudge instead? Find ways to get revenge?
Of course not. We are called to love. And this call to love is written throughout the New Testament as evidence of your relationship with Christ.
The trademark of Christ followers
The Apostle Paul reminds us in Ephesians 5:1-2, “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
Yet when we’re trying to love the unlovable, we can’t love in our own strength and will. We need the power of the Holy Spirit living and working in us. We need to live and do in His strength and ability. This reminds me of Jesus’ teaching:
We can do nothing apart from the Lord. This kind of righteous living Jesus calls us to is only possible through Him.
A call to love
This call to love our enemies in Christ’s power echoes the trademark we should have as His followers – LOVE. Earlier in John 13, Jesus teaches,
Again in John 15, Jesus teaches:
If Christ Jesus is your Lord, love for Him and love for others is your response. Love is what Christ followers need to be known for. Love for other believers and love for non-believers. Love for those who are for you, and love for those who are against you.
Christ showed us the greatest love – laying down his life for his friends and enemies. As Christ’s disciples, we’re called to love like He loved.
When and how have you watched the love of God change a relationship?
Photos courtesy of Unsplash.
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