Revenge toward, or rejection of, those who harm you, anger, conflict, an unwillingness to forgive – how often do you experience these feelings and emotions in your daily living? Think of those individuals at work that you dislike. Do you tend to try to avoid these individuals? Do you hold a grudge or refuse to forgive them for something they did in the past? Perhaps they took credit for something you accomplished, or said something in a group meeting that hurt or embarrassed you.
What about your extended family? Are there those who you no longer reach out to due to something they did or said – or perhaps did not do - in the past? Are there people who used to be friends, or your next door neighbor, with whom you had a disagreement and you decided to no long have anything to do with them, or perhaps they rejected you – and you are quite comfortable with simply “writing them off”?
If we’re honest with ourselves, we are all guilty in one or more of these situations. Yet, love is what is supposed to set Christians apart from the rest of the world and is perhaps the most important way that Christians witness to the world, to God’s Glory. We all know how Jesus answered the Pharisee who asked Him: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law? His response was, in addition to loving God with all your heart, soul and mind, “love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matt 22:36-39). There is no qualifier here, our neighbor is everyone we come in contact with – including our enemies. It is agape love that God is requiring of us. It is the way of self-denial, the way of the cross. Search your heart. Consider your relationships with family, co-workers, former friends and neighbors. Identify situations where you fall short of Jesus’s commandment here – and, with love, make things right.
“Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore, love is the fulfillment of the law.” (Romans 13:10)