I remember preparing for a funeral for someone’s mother. The family told me stories of what a rich example of Christianity this lady was in the lives of her children and grandchildren. She had a special way of uniquely treating and spending time with each child, making each one feel special. This was truly a great family member.
However, when I asked the family member how this one interacted with her neighbors, one of the children flatly said, “Oh, she didn’t like anyone else. Just family.”
It has occurred to me that the marks that Christ makes in our lives are not measured by how we love our family and friends, but how we love across the boundaries of love. How do we love the difficult to love?
Jesus taught this clearly. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:43-48)
Truly, the difference that Jesus makes cannot be fully imitated over an extended period. The imitator, under stress, will reveal his true heart. The problem is that when we, the ambassadors for divine love, fail to endure over extended periods, testing trials, unfair treatment, disrespectful attacks and extreme stress, we excuse any imitators. What we show in love and withholding love can too easily be imitated by a pretender.
Our very forgiveness and eternal survival is dependent upon this supernatural love. “For one will scarcely die for a righteous person–though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die– but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:7-8)
The next challenge to your love will be your next test. Does Christ really make a difference in your life? Do we really have the ability to surrender in dependency to Him, even in our hardest test for Him show Himself mighty through us in love? Or is it just rhetoric? Have we watered down love to be the same as a pagan’s ability to love his dear ones? Do we simply believe that our ability to love our dear ones is just deeper because of Christ, and that is enough? Or through Christ, can we love the unlovable, reach the unreachable, touch the untouchable, heal the unhealable, and bridge the untraversable, even when it is our own barriers to love?