The Hardest of These is Love

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 (English Standard Version)

The hardest of these is love.

I’m not referring to the mushy, sometimey, feeling-based, usually conditional, emotion that we pay tons of lip service to in love songs, cards, and gifts.  No. The love I’m referring to is the act of doing for others, whether they deserve it or not, and knowing your loving deed may not be appreciated or reciprocated.  True love is hard work.  Just ask any spouse: giving love and doing for a spouse who is unwilling-or unable-to reciprocate.  Ask a parent: giving love to a child-or children-that is being bombarded with the lie of “entitlement” thanks to the media.  Ask a (real) pastor: shepherding people in love that take him/her for granted.

The hardest of these is love.

In fact, love can hurt too.  As I inferred earlier, you give your all and it’s not appreciated or reciprocated.  It’s no wonder why there are people who don’t bother falling in love, getting too close to others, working in “people” vocations, getting married, or having children since each of these relationships have the potential for hurt.  For these love-shy folk, the “pain” of loneliness is far more bearable than the hurt that comes with love.

The hardest of these is love.

Love means to give of oneself.  To live with vulnerability-the possibility of being hurt.  To live with openness and risk being criticized for speaking the truth (in love).  To live with forgiveness and risk being taken advantage of.  Love means to risk rejection, ingratitude, being taken advantage of…all the things our “modern” world associate with “weakness.”

The hardest of these is love.

In the above Scripture passage, Jesus was again preaching to the crowds on the plain.  Jesus tells us that instead of just loving those who love us-or treat us the way we expect to be treated-we’re to love those who don’t love us (or at least those who don’t appreciate and reciprocate our love).  As humans, this is hard for us since we gravitate our affections and attentions to those who love us in return.  However, Jesus’ words keep poking through the ages and bring us back to this instruction.

The hardest of these is love.

And it’s not those who don’t love/appreciate/reciprocate we’re to love.  We’re also called to love the unlovable.  The unlovable: people who don’t want to be loved; people who others gave up their love on.  These are people from all walks of life who need to be loved; people we too would pass by if we knew about their being unlovable.  Maybe they never had anyone to love them coming up.  Maybe they’ve alienated themselves through wrong choices in life: drugs, crime, questionable lifestyles.  Or they’ve devoted their lives to career and success, yet sacrificed relationships along the way.  These are the lonely, the marginalized…the very people Jesus reached out to while on Earth.

The hardest of these is love.

As we continue our Lenten journey, we speak of wanting to be more “Christlike”.  Jesus tells us to be perfect (complete, whole) as our Heavenly Father (or Mother) is perfect.  And we only reach that perfection is through loving the way God does (and did through Jesus), which included the unlovable, the unappreciative, the undeserving, the nonreciprocating in our world.  And if the truth be told, we’ve been-or we are-in one or all of those categories.

The hardest of these is love.  Something to ponder this Lenten Season and beyond.

Grace and Peace!

About dangerouschristian

My name is Victor Reynolds. I'm a Christian who desires a more mystical approach to my spiritual life. I'm also a photographer as well who loves to create. I call myself "dangerous" because anyone-especially a Christian-who dares to be beyond the "norm" and allows to let the Christ live in them is dangerous.
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