Best of Daily Reflections: When Love Isn’t Easy
"But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you."
Sometimes love is easy. Most of the time, I enjoy loving my wife and children . . . even my dog and cat. Caring for them is one of my greatest pleasures in life.
But then there are other times, times when I’m called to love in difficult ways. Sometimes this happens in my family, as when I need to discipline my children. I hate making them feel unhappy, but I do it because I love them. Even more taxing are times when I need to love someone I don’t especially like. As a pastor, I was challenged to love people who had been unkind to me. This was not easy.
But, honestly, my greatest challenges in love are nothing like what some of my brothers and sisters in Christ face. I learned this lesson many years ago when I was leading a Bible study at a community college in Los Angeles. My group was about as diverse as any I ever led: ethnically, religiously, and experientially.
One afternoon, I was leading a study of Jesus' command to love our enemies. When I suggested rather glibly that God always helps us to love those who hurt us, a man named Ricardo interjected, "Yes, but sometimes it's very hard to love your enemies."
I agreed, but once again made such love sound rather simple. I gave an example of loving someone who had been rude to me in a store. But Ricardo kept insisting that it was hard to love, even with God’s help. Finally I asked, "Ricardo, do you have a hard time loving your enemies?"
"Yes," he admitted, "a very hard time." He then told a gripping story. When he was a teen-aged Christian in a Central American country, Ricardo was part of a leadership team of an evangelistic movement. He and his friends worked hard to share the good news of Jesus with their friends and families. They had no political agenda. But that's not how the government saw their activity. Fearing that Bible-believing followers of Jesus would become politically uncooperative, local government officials ordered Ricardo and his friends to cease their evangelistic efforts. They refused, sensing that God had called them to share Christ with their neighbors. One evening, while they were holding a prayer meeting, government police stormed the meeting hall. They grabbed the leaders, took them outside, and promptly killed them. Ricardo ran home, gathered his few possessions, and began the long trek that ultimately brought him to California.
"It's still very hard for me to forgive those people who killed my friends," Ricardo concluded, "I can't really say that I love them."
I sat in stunned silence. I realized how superficial my understanding and application had been. Now, what I had said in the Bible study was true. Jesus does call us to love our enemies and God will help us do this. But, after listening to Ricardo, I realized in a new way just how hard it can be to love sometimes, and how much we all need God’s help if we are to love like Jesus.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: When have you found it especially difficult to love someone? Why? How has God helped you to love beyond your own capability? Do you need God’s help in this way today?
PRAYER: Dear Lord, your call is not easy. It’s not easy to take up our cross and follow you. It’s not easy to seek first your kingdom. And it’s certainly not easy to love our enemies. Yet you call us, nevertheless, aware of our weaknesses. You call us to your way, the way of the kingdom. You call us to a life that we can live only by your strength.
I ask for that strength today, Lord. Help me to love beyond my own limitations. May I be a channel of your abundant, sacrificial, holy, gracious love.
As I think about Ricardo today, I ask you, Lord, to draw near to believers in our world who face real enemies today. I can’t even imagine how difficult it must be for them to love, or even to know what it means to love. So encourage my brothers and sisters. Grant them your wisdom, strength, and peace.
All praise be to you, Lord Jesus, because you give us a high calling. Amen.