When Jesus commanded those who would follow him to love their enemies/1, Jesus revealed that we have the ability to choose to love anyone. Jesus is telling us that love is a decision. We are in control whether or not we will choose to seek someone’s well-being. Furthermore, Jesus unveiled love as the badge of discipleship when he taught, “A new command I give you: Love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”/2 For God’s people to wear the badge of discipleship means we need marriages and congregations brimming with love.
Unfortunately, there are many barriers which would try to prevent us from choosing to love. People might look at their circumstances and say, “You don’t know what I’ve been through. You don’t know what I have to live with.” Maybe a debilitating disease, a spouse or the behavior of another church member is why blame is being cast for one’s own lack of love. Such statements reflect a lifestyle of choosing to react to our situations. While it may be hard to hear, and we might even get angry at the suggestion, Jesus says there is another way to live. We can proactively choose to love even our enemies.
The Christ has the right to tell us we can decide to love. A group of people mentally abused and assalted him through mocking statements and gestures, slapping him and spitting in his face. Humiliation then gave way to physical suffering as he was stripped, whipped, beaten, and then crucified. Because Jesus announced that no one would take his life from him as evidenced by the fact that he had 12 legions of angels at his disposal to release him up to the very last moment, he chose the nails because of his love for us./3 From the cross, the words went up to the Father, “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.”/4 In spite of his circumstances, Jesus chose to love that we might be saved. Jesus has the right to tell us to love even our enemy.
Unresolved anger is another powerful barrier to loving. We see hidden anger through inappropriate outbursts. Such anger might arise from feelings of fear, frustration, hurt or some combination of these as a result of unfulfilled expectations. Such anger can cause us to distance ourselves from God, others, and even from taking care of ourselves, not to mention prevent us from spiritual growth.
Here are some steps which may help with unresolved anger:
1) Define the offense. What should you have been able to expect which you did not receive.
2) Allow yourself to grieve for what you have lost. We can suffer unjustly.
3) Try to understand the offender. The offender may not be right, but seek to understand.
4) Release your offender. Forgive as Christ has forgiven you.
5) Look for a silver lining. Good can come from a bad situation. Because of what has happened, what skills have you acquired to help others? How have you grown in compassion for others?
6) Reach out to the offender. In Jesus’ words, make the choice to love your enemy.
There are paths for overcoming the obstacles to loving. Anyone can choose to love as Jesus commanded. It is our decision whether or not we will wear the badge of a disciple.
1/ Matthew 5:44
2/ Joihn 13:33-34
3/ John 10:18; Matthew 26:53
4/ Luke 23:34