February. It’s the month of Love.
Advertisers are bombarding us with images of chocolates, flowers, diamonds, and even cars as potential Valentine’s Day gifts. The Winter Olympics, that symbol of unity among athletes regardless of nationality, takes place this month–and we do love our Olympic stars. Even during the Super Bowl, several commercials touted the importance of love and unity among families and people of all varieties.
But a friend on Facebook asked, “Why is it so hard to love?”
I don’t think she was talking about the romantic love we celebrate on Valentine’s Day. She meant the difficulty of choosing love over hate, of choosing to forgive those who hurt us, of loving those who are different from us.
And it is hard. Our human nature wants to give like for like–to love only those who love us, to hurt those who hurt us, to hate those “others” who hate us.
Yet the Bible is very clear that we cannot hate others if we love God: “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen” (I John 4:20 NIV).
Of course, the scripture isn’t referring only to a literal relative but to fellow Christians. Sometimes others in the church are the hardest to love.
But Jesus emphasized that we are to love our enemies as well. “I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:26-27, ESV). This is where the rubber meets the road, and loving gets really tough. But perhaps that last phrase is the key: prayer.
We must, first of all, pray for strength. We cannot love our enemies without God’s help, without acknowledging His love for us. “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19, ESV).
Then we need to pray for that person we are tempted to hate. I’ve found it impossible to harbor hard feelings toward someone for whom I am praying. Through prayer, God reminds me that He loves that person as much as He loves me. Perhaps the reason my “enemy” acts so hateful toward me is that he or she does not know about God’s love.
Yes, loving is hard. But we can ask God to love others through us. Because His love is unlimited.