Love as Action, Not a Feeling
Jesus tells a crowd: Love your enemies. Do GOOD to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. Give to everyone who begs from you, and if anyone takes away your goods DO NOT ask for them again. Do to others as you have them do to you.
This was a way of thinking and living that was unheard of. They were struggling under roman oppression and abuse, their own leaders taxed them and sold them out to the Romans – how did Jesus expect them to love those who abused them and hated them?
The same way he himself did, not so long after.
But love your enemies? How can you feel love for someone who has hurt you? We’re human, it doesn’t happen.
Let’s be clear here. The kind of love Jesus is talking about is a DOING kind of love, not a FEELING kind of love. Look at the words he uses:
- Do good
- Pray for
These are verbs – words that convey action, not feeling.
How many of you have had to reach out to someone who you don’t really care for and do something good for them? I have. And it feels strange. Sometimes getting past the feelings to get to the doing is really the hardest part.
But the healing that is possible is priceless.
For example, on a larger scale, after WWII both Japan and Germany were flattened. Neither country had the resources or infrastructure left to rebuild. General MacArthur led the U.S. effort to get Japan back on its feet. Why would we do that after the Pearl Harbor attack? We rebuilt the economy, instituted needed reforms, laid the foundation for Japan to grow.
In Europe, it was General Marshall who, after seeing the devastation on Germany, came back to the U.S. and created the Marshall plan which rebuilt so much of what had been lost in Europe.
The results of these works, not done out of any kind of love, but out of understanding our responsibility to others, has been that Germany and Japan have become tow of our strongest allies.
We could have just gone home from those conflicts and done nothing. We had been the least affected, we could have just gone on pretty much as we had. But we didn’t. We didn’t let our hatred and horror over what had happened rule us. Instead of building walls we built bridges and reached out to help those who had been devastated by the war.
Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you.
Hate is such a strong, final kind of word. It says that you have absolutely no good, positive, loving feelings toward a person or thing. Hating someone means you wish them harm, not good.
But there’s another thing about hate.
When we say we hate someone we sort of create a tie that binds us to that person. We can’t let go. Our hatred ends of chaining us, hurting us probably more than the person we claim to hate. Hate won’t allow us to break free. We become chained to that person. Our feeling of hatred becomes like a cancer that eats us up from the inside. That is why Jesus tells us not to return hate for hate, abuse for abuse, curse for curse. Because it eats away at who we are in Christ. It weakens the body of Christ. It diminished our witness as followers of Jesus.
Jesus commands us to love and bless and pray for BECAUSE he knows that feeling good things towards someone who has hurt us is not the answer. The answer is in doing good to all people, no matter who they are to us, that we grow in Christ and learn to be like him.
For Jesus, love wasn’t a feeling… it was an action.
An action that without exception, led to making another person’s life better. His love was an active love, one that had hands and feet and a mind behind it.
This is how we are able to love those who hate us. It’s not about returning feeling for feeling, it’s about DOING what Jesus would have us use, regardless of the consequences to us, or how we feel.
It is a love that sees in another person the imago dei – the image of God – that each and every one of us carry within us. What they do may not be acceptable to us or understood by us, but we are commanded to see their humanity, a humanity which Jesus shared with us and in so doing, made each of us a sacred vessel through whom God works. A creation that God looked and said, “that is good.”
Today, there are so many people who are afraid of those they don’t know or understand and so they are willing to demonize them without ever knowing them. So many people telling us that we have to fear what we don’t know, fear someone different from us, whether a different faith, skin color, or status in society. Fear them – “get them before they get you.”
This is NOT how Jesus calls us to live. In Luke’s Gospel, we hear quite clearly that whether are no distinctions when it comes to God’s love. We are called to love all people ALL THE TIME. We are called to bless them even when they don’t bless us. Pray for them, not fear them.
Jesus tells us to be merciful as your Father in heaven is merciful.
- Do not judge and you not be judged;
- Do not condemn and you will not be condemned;
- Forgive and you will be forgiven;
- Give and it will be given to you, a good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over and be put into your lap, for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.
Jesus is talking about love and blessing. Love others with a full and open heart and that love will be returned to you many times over.
Bless others freely and openly and you will be blessed by them in return.
Jesus tell us clearly, that the measure we give (of anything) will be the measure we get back.
Let’s allow our love to radically overflow all barriers and boundaries. To reach to all people – even the ones who might not love us back. Even those we are told to look down on, or to fear.
Let everything we do be for the benefit of others, without worry about what’s in it for us or what it might cost us.
Because if we are truly listening to Jesus, the cost is too high not to love.
From the Gospel of Luke 6: 27-38
Image credit: DETROIT, MICHIGAN – JUNE 14, 2018