Love: Far More Than SweetheartsDaily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
“But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you.”
During my college days, when I lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts, I frequented the Haviland chocolate factory not too far from my school. The factory featured a store where one could purchase seconds of the tasty Haviland chocolates. The seconds tasted great, but looked a little peculiar. More importantly, they were very inexpensive, perfect for a chocolate-loving college student’s budget.
In 1994, the Haviland operation was purchased by the New England Confectionary Co. NECCO continued to operate the Cambridge factory for several years, until they shut it down in 2003.
My guess is that you are not familiar with Haviland chocolate. Your loss! But you are almost certainly familiar with NECCO’s most famous product: those little candy “Sweethearts” with messages on them, the ones that are so popular around Valentine’s Day. NECCO makes more than eight billion candy hearts each year, most of which are sold in early February. They help us celebrate the joys of romantic love.
Isn’t love wonderful? Well, no, not always, at least not on the surface. Sometimes love is one of the hardest challenges of life. Love, real love, can lead us to do that which we would never choose, except for our belief that it is right to love.
Consider what Jesus says in Luke 6:27: “But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you.” Is that wonderful? Oh, to be sure, stories of this kind of love can be inspirational. But that is in hindsight. If you’ve ever tried to do what Jesus says and love your enemies, you know how hard this can be.
Notice that Jesus is not calling us to have warm, fuzzy feelings for our enemies. Loving our enemies means doing good to those who hate us. It means actually treating them with kindness and mercy. Love of this sort is far more than sending them Valentine’s Day Sweethearts, cards, or red roses. Rather, it’s a sacrificial, self-denying choice to seek what’s best for those who do not seek the best for us. In fact, they might very well want to hurt us...or worse. Yet we’re to do good to them, according to Jesus.
I know this passage raises all sorts of complicated ethical questions. There is a time and place for serious conversation about what it means to love enemies in the perplexing realities of our lives. But, today, I want to let the command of Jesus sink into my heart, without letting my brain blunt its sharp edge. I want to consider my relationships, and whether I’m following the command of Jesus or not. I want to be one of those who is “willing to listen,” as Jesus says (Lu. 6:27), so that I might hear what God is saying to me today.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: How do you respond to Jesus’ call to love your enemies? Have you ever acted in obedience to this instruction? When? What happened? Is Jesus calling you to love someone in your life in a new way today?
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, it’s so easy for us to say things like “Christianity is all about love” and to smile happy smiles. We’re tempted to think of love as being so wonderful. And, to be sure, there are ways in which love leaves us truly full of wonder. Yet, you call us to a expression of love that pushes us beyond our comfort zones. Love our enemies? Do good to those who hate us? You say, “Yes!” We say, “Well...”
Lord, you know that my inclination is to treat this command as an intellectual challenge. It certainly does deserve serious theological and ethical conversation. But, I must confess that sometimes I can let this sort of consideration keep me from hearing your word to me. Forgive me for using my intellect to escape the clear call you have placed before me.
Help me, dear Lord, to know how to love the “enemies” in my life. May I have the courage and conviction to do what you say, even when it is unsettling and scary. May I offer your grace to those who have none for me because you have so freely poured out your grace upon me. Amen.