“Love one another…”John 13:34, I John 4:11, “look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Philippians 2:4, “whoever loves God must also love his brother.” I John4:21, “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?” James 2:15-16, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:39,
I don’t think I’ll get any pushback regarding our call to “be our brother’s keeper” Genesis 4:9. The Bible is full of texts that support this as our great commission. And I’m pretty sure if I were to ask ‘who’s our neighbor?’, ‘who’s our brother?’, we’d generate a common list including those in poverty, the homeless, the sick, the widowed, etc.
So instead of spending a lot of time sharing the many ways that we could love our neighbor (and please don’t mistake my intent – we should love and serve those in need and I strongly encourage you to do so; I want to spend a little time unpacking “As you did it to one of the least of these My brothers, you did it unto Me” Matthew 25:40. Who exactly are the ‘least of these’?
For me, loving my neighbor or my brother has always been easy. Maybe it’s just been ingrained in me that “to whom much is given, much is required” Luke 12:48 or perhaps, and more likely true, is “There but for the grace of God, go I” I Corinthians 15:8-10. Give, help, serve, give some more; all words I live by. But just as soon as I was prepared to check that box (loving and serving my neighbors – check, check, check); a question popped in my head, “Wait, does that include those who might not be so loving or lovable? Does that include the despicable, detestable, down-right deplorable? Does that include those who have hurt others, or have hurt me for that matter? “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” Matthew 5:44. Sounds like a yes. And there goes that check mark. My next question was, “How dear Father, how?” How do you love the person who:
- brutally attacked you, robbing you of all sense of normalcy, hope, security, dignity and peace
- harmed a little child, changing the trajectory of their life forever
- spins lies like Charlotte spun her web, deceiving millions, putting self-interest above the good of others
- bullied you through grade school, causing you to doubt who you are;
- killed a family member
- introduced your child to drugs
- made your work environment a living hell
- cheated on you, disappointed you and left you alone to care for yourself and your family
“How dear Father, how do you love that person?” I’ve heard stories of victims extending love and grace to their undeserving perpetrators.
- Gunman Charles Roberts entered a one-room Amish school in Nickel Mines, Pa., dismissed all but 10 girls, and fired at them execution-style, killing five before shooting himself. Despite anguish and hurt, the Amish community immediately responded to the family of the shooter in love by visiting the gunman's widow at her home with food and flowers and hugged members of his family; of attending the funeral of the shooter; and contributing to a fund for the shooter's family.
- In a Russian courtroom in 2015 Eva Kor was photographed hugging Oskar Groening, the former SS Sergeant who was accused (and later found guilty) of being complicit in the murder of 300,000 people during the Holocaust, inclusive of her mother, father and two older sisters who were all gassed to death.
- In 2005 in Benton Harbor, Michigan, Jameel McGee says he was minding his own business when police officer, Andrew Collins, accused him of and arrested him for dealing drugs. Jameel spent four years in prison. Andrew later admitted to falsifying the report. He was convicted and served a year and a half for falsifying many police reports, planting drugs and stealing. By coincidence (or perhaps not), they both ended up working together at a faith-based employment agency and are now good friends.
“How did they learn to love ‘that person’, the source of their despair?” From reading the stories of several victims as well as reading God’s Word, I’ve identified 3 answers to the question “How?”:
- Loving others is a choice. We love others because God has called us to. We love others as an extension of God’s love to and through us (Daniel 1:8, Luke 6:45, I Peter 1:22, I Corinthians 4:7).
- We have been called to forgive others and there are no qualifiers for who we forgive. According to Eva, the Holocaust survivor, “Why survive at all if you want to be is sad, angry and hurting?” she says. “That is so foreign to who I am. I don’t understand why the world is so much more willing to accept lashing out in anger rather than embracing friendship and humanity.” (Ephesians 4:32, Matthew 6:14-15, Colossians 3:13, Luke 6:27)
- Through God, all things are possible. By His grace, His love, and His power we too can love the unlovable. (Matthew 19:26, Philippians 4:13, Luke 1:37, Mark 9:23, Mark 10:27)
We are called to love others. Is it easy? Not always. Just read Savannah’s story in Naked and Unashamed. Is it possible? Absolutely! I’d love to hear from you as I’m still learning and growing too! Who are you called to love today? How have you loved others, especially the ‘unlovable’?
From My Heart to Yours,
Text of the Week: "The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.' Matthew 25:40
- How does the biblical meaning of unconditional love compare to society’s definition of love?
- What makes loving unconditionally challenging?
- How are forgiveness and unconditional love related?