“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” Matthew 5:44-48
Here’s my confession. For most of my life, I loved others and expressed my love for them based on what I wanted from them and for them; what I could get from them; what I wanted them to do; their love for me; their approval, acceptance, affirmation, and validation of me; how they treated me, what they said to me, what they gave me, how good it felt to love them, my comfort, security, feelings, well-being, satisfaction and fulfillment, peace of mind, dreams, plans, purposes, and agenda, what I felt I needed and couldn’t live without, whether others lived up to my expectations and desires, and whether they loved me in return in the way and to the degree I desired. It was a self-consuming love. A perfect fit in a world consumed with self, a world that loves like I did. Selfishly.
The tragedy in such a selfish love is that when we’re not pleased, uncomfortable, dissatisfied, not fulfilled, don’t feel secure, have to step out of our comfort zones, need to think of others instead of ourselves, need to give, sacrifice, and compromise, and get nothing in return at best or something hard and hurtful in return at worst, we figure we can turn our love for that person or people in for a full refund or exchange it for a self-fulfilling love for somebody else with the selfish hope and expectation our wishes, ways, and wants will now get satisfied. No matter how it may be disguised on the outside, this selfish love is all about us, isn’t it?
Imagine my surprise when I truly devoted my life to Christ and discovered what the love we are commanded to have and express to others really looks like, really is, and really does. Those who desire to spend eternity with God in heaven are called to repent and believe in Christ as Lord, to die to ourselves, and to live for God. We are commanded to love selflessly, sacrificially, abundantly, steadfastly, continually, committedly laying down our own desires, agendas, comfort, wishes, ways, and wants to love, bless, give to, and pray for others unconditionally. Our love is to be modeled after Christ’s perfect love. How? In the strength of God’s Spirit and Word. Why? By this we love and glorify God, and others by His love pouring through us are drawn to the Lord Jesus Christ.