Romans 12:9 “Let love be genuine.”
Sincerely Loving Others, Even our Enemies
It would be much easier to walk through this world not caring. There is a certain appeal to being a detached, impenetrable person, avoiding hurt and never feeling the pains of others. Loving others can hurt. Many times I have found myself saying “I wish I didn’t care so much.”
Loving comes with a cost to self, especially loving those who do not believe in Christ, and do not love you in return. Psalm 35:12-16 gives jaw dropping insight into David’s heart towards his enemies:
“They repay me evil for good; my soul is bereft. But I, when they were sick- I wore sackcloth; I afflicted myself with fasting; I prayed with head bowed on my chest. I went about as though I grieved for my friend or my brother; as one who laments his mother, I bowed down in mourning. But at my stumbling they rejoiced and gathered; they gathered together against me; wretches whom I did not know tore at me without ceasing; like profane mockers at a feast, they gnash at me with their teeth.”
The Bible calls for a radical kind of love. Only people with hearts set on fire with love for God could offer sincerity of prayer for those who would hate and mock them. This type of love will be accompanied by sorrows. Jesus Christ calls us to lay down our life in love and service towards others- but not just our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Matthew 5:43-47 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour 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?”
Jesus taught that we are to love and pray for those who use us, slander us, and would even put us to death.
Does love include feeling, or is it only a choice displayed in loving actions?
In an attempt to avoid sentimentalized, emotion-driven Christianity, some have declared that love is choice and action but not emotion. In reading scripture I cannot bring myself to that kind of cut and dry conclusion about the biblical command to love others.
I agree with Pastor John Piper’s statement:
“That love involves not only the will, but also the affections, is born out in everyday experience. Imagine a husband who seeks the welfare of his wife, but doesn’t enjoy doing it. Would his wife feel loved? We doubt it. Even if the husband did not dislike serving his wife, but simply was indifferent in doing it, she still would not feel loved. This is because we intuitively recognize that emotions are an essential part of love. Love includes not just willing, but also preferring and wanting and delighting.”
Loving the Way God Does
1 John 3:16-18 “By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”
From this verse we can see that God’s love is self-sacrificing, open-hearted, and generously meeting the needs of others. Offering professions of love and care are not enough on their own, but where there is need, the Christian labour of love is to meet it. It is essential to see that not only should we meet physical needs, but spiritual needs as well. Real love is concerned for people’s souls, knowledge of truth, and spiritual well being.
Remember that it is possible to perform loving actions without genuine love. 1Corinthians 13:3 “If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.”
What Types of Emotions May Be Involved In Loving Others?
Empathy for Human Sorrow and Weakness
2 Corinthians 11:28-29 “And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?”
Romans 12:15 “Weep with those who weep.”
We need to recognize ourselves in the sea of human frailty, failure, and hurt. If we are doing well now, we should be able to remember times when we were mistreated, sorrowful, burdened with sin- and the many other trials that are common to men. We might see a brother struggling and tell him the right things to do, but it is better if we first care for him in prayer, and then with humility and understanding meet our brother and share in his broken heartedness and battles. This positions our heart towards counselling our brother out of sincerity and love.
Sorrow and Anguished Prayer For the Lost
Romans 9:2-3, 10:1 “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh…Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved.”
Authentic love doesn’t only recognize the lost condition of others, but feels it. Notice Paul doesn’t brush the weight of his lost kinsmen off by saying “Well, if they are elect then God will save them.” He lets the burden of their cursed state rest squarely on his shoulders until he prays like what seems to be, a man gone out of his mind.
God alone is capable of saving people, but this fact is never intended to ease our fervent desire for people to be saved. Throughout the whole of scripture, the prophets, Jesus Christ, and the disciples showed grave concern for people’s souls, and brought them before the Lord in anguished prayer and with warnings. This is genuine love, and we should follow their example.
Grief Within the Soul for Suffering People
Job 30:25 “Did not I weep for him whose day was hard? Was not my soul grieved for the needy?”
Randy Alcorn expresses exactly what I want to say about this point in his book “If God Is Good.”
“It’s no sin to feel that burden [the weight of creation groaning because of world suffering], and sometimes it’s a sin not to. Some of what passes for Christian contentment is, in fact, indifference to the evil and suffering around us. It’s apathy toward the plight of God’s image-bearers, demonstrated by the fact that we do so little and give so little to help them… I feel a profound sadness and mourning for human brokenness, for children exploited by the sex trade, killed by abortion, and dying of diseases and disasters. Still, my confidence in an all-good and all-powerful God allows me to simultaneously feel happiness even in this world of evil and suffering.”
Steadfast faith and trust in the sovereignty of God should not be acquainted with a heart unmoved to pity and grief in the face of human suffering. Genuine love must move our hearts to compassion.
Care and Concern for People’s Welfare
Philippians 2:1-3 “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
Phillippians 2:20 (Paul’s affirmation of Timothy) “I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. They all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.”
Sharing in Christ’s “love,” “affection”, and “sympathy,” means caring for others because we love Jesus and want to serve Him.
We see also, the sad admonition that there are few people who are genuinely concerned with the good of others. Most of us are primarily concerned with our own lives, and not with the lives of those that Jesus Christ so loves and cares about. He wants to show His love to this world through His church. I find it so convicting how often we concern ourselves with ourselves instead of displaying this love to each other in the body of Christ and to the world.
Distress and Torment of Soul over People’s Sin and Rejection of Christ
Jeremiah 13:17 “But if you will not listen, my soul will weep in secret for your pride; my eyes will weep bitterly and run down with tears…”
Psalm 119:136 “My eyes shed streams of tears, because people do not keep your law.”
1Peter 2:8 “He (God) rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard).”
Matthew 23:37 Jesus laments “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!”
If we love people and our God, our hearts should break over the sin that is all around us. By sin our great God is offended and grieved, lives are destroyed, and people go to Hell. They reject the Messiah who would save them if they would only repent and trust in His name, but instead they trample His sacrifice beneath their feet.
God says “I spread out my hands all the day to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, following their own devices; a people who provoke me to my face continually… (Isaiah 65:2-3).” If we know our own wretchedness, if we know the Lord and understand His heart’s desire for all people to be saved, if we comprehend some of the enormous atrocity of sinning against Him, we will not feel smug and pious when we look at people’s sin. In love for them and for His Name we will weep for people’s condition and bring them the gospel which has all power to save.
Rich and Satisfying Joy
Romans 12:15 “Rejoice with those who rejoice.”
3John 4 “I have no greater joy than to heart that my children are walking in the truth.”
Luke 15:7 “There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”
Without love that is willing to feel pain and travail in prayer on the behalf of others, I don’t think it is possible to experience the same depth of blessing by sharing in this kind of rejoicing. There is a vast difference between hearing about someone’s salvation or victory of faith when you have contributed by prayer or support, than if you played no role in it whatsoever. Your level of joy is in proportion to your level of care.
This being said, the Christian who truly loves and labours for people, will have great satisfaction in sharing in their joy, not only in this life but also in the life to come!
Psalm 126:6 “He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.”
We need to pray that God would help us love people like this. It is so important to Christ who declared that the greatest commandment was to love Him with all of our heart, soul, strength and mind and to love our neighbour as our self (Luke 10:27).
Loving hearts are bold in faith, and rich in deeds of compassion. In thinking once again about the love that we should have for even our enemies, I close with this verse:
“The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will (2Timoth 2:24-26).”
What wonderful encouragement to persevere in love, even in the face of evil. And what a great and glorious God we have!