Love Them like Yourself

Matthew 22:38-39 (NIV)
This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

My class of grade school boys were all wound up but the lesson began and we plowed through the topic of the morning; “Love.” Not the favorite subject for the typical grade school aged male. Nonetheless they gave me the best of their attention.

We talked about how we’re supposed to love others even when they don’t love us, even when they don’t like us. I had their attention, sort of. That is until I asked the most difficult question, “Is this easy or is it hard to do?” The room went silent, so silent you could hear them breathing. I wondered who it was they were having a hard time loving. Was it a brother or sister; was it someone at school or in their neighborhood? Every boy out of the seventeen said it was hard and their attention was pinned on me with looks that screamed, “Help me!!” I think they were expecting a church answer but I told them flat out that I agreed with them. Looks of surprise were plentiful but it gave us a prime opportunity to face the fact that Jesus challenge to love others is just plain hard sometimes.

The truth is, I find it easier to love those who love me; those who like me. Sometimes, maybe even often, loving my neighbor means loving someone who is difficult to love. If God is going to assess our capacity to love then I actually think the test is not so much how we love those who love us but how we love those who don’t. And let’s face it we all know people that are just hard to love. That’s the test of real love.

The cool thing is that the God who commands us to love others also gives us the power to do it…even when we don’t want to.

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