It is written:
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. (John 13:34)
But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you… (Matthew 5:44)
The way of Christ is the way of love. Love for God, love for our fellow man, even love for our enemies. This is such a powerful truth that the Lord Jesus reminds us that the love which we display for others is that defining characteristic of being one of His disciples.
Yet what does this mean?
How can we truly love everyone, even our enemies?
“If we regard people with agapē, it means that no matter what they do to us, no matter how they treat us, no matter if they insult us or injure us or grieve us, we will never allow any bitterness against them to invade our hearts, but will regard them with that unconquerable benevolence and goodwill which will seek nothing but their highest good. From this, certain things emerge. (1) Jesus never asked us to love our enemies in the same way as we love our nearest and dearest. The very word is different; to love our enemies in the same way as we love our nearest and dearest would be neither possible nor right. This is a different kind of love. (2) Wherein does the main difference lie? In the case of our nearest and dearest, we cannot help loving them; we speak of falling in love; it is something which comes to us quite unsought; it is something which is born of the emotions of the heart. But in the case of our enemies, love is not only something of the heart; it is also something of the will. It is not something which we cannot help; it is something which we have to will ourselves into doing. It is in fact a victory over that which comes instinctively to us by our very nature. Agapē does not mean a feeling of the heart, which we cannot help, and which comes unbidden and unsought; it means a determination of the mind, whereby we achieve this unconquerable goodwill even to those who hurt and injure us. We can only have agapē when Jesus Christ enables us to conquer our natural tendency to anger and to bitterness, and to achieve this invincible goodwill to all people. (3) It is then quite obvious that the last thing agapē, Christian love, means is that we allow people to do absolutely as they like, and that we leave them quite unchecked. If we regard people with invincible goodwill, it will often mean that we must punish them, that we must restrain them, that we must discipline them, that we must protect them against themselves. But it will also mean that we do not punish them to satisfy our desire for revenge, but in order to make them better people. It will always mean that all Christian discipline and all Christian punishment must be aimed not at vengeance but at cure. Punishment will never be merely retributive; it will always be remedial.” (William Barclay,, Barclay on the Lectionary, 1082-1101 (Kindle Edition); Edinburgh, England; Saint Andrew Press)
The love that God calls us to show is a love which is learned (cf. 1 Timothy 1:5; Titus 2:3-4). It does not come naturally to us; rather, as we learn and grow as Christians, this love is shown to be a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). As we will walk in the Spirit, we will see the love that God calls us to have growing towards Him and our fellow man (Galatians 5:16-17).
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.