“See you later!” I say happily as I wave goodbye from the front door. I slowly walk inside, close the door. But I feel guilty! She is a very nice girl, but I just don’t like being around her—I don’t know why.
“You’re such a hypocrite!” a small voice in my head tells me. “You call yourself a Christian? Christians are supposed to love their enemies; everyone knows that. But you don’t even love your friends!”
Trying to love didn’t help
“I’ve tried!” I say out loud. It’s true—I have tried. For a long time I’ve really made an effort to love the people around me, especially the ones I feel I don’t get along so well with. I haven’t stopped being around them, and when they have done or said things that make me feel irritated or annoyed, I knew that the irritation is coming from inside me, and I have said No to these thoughts.
But it hasn’t helped. True—maybe I don’t really dislike them, but even when I didn’t give in and decided not to get irritated or annoyed, all that’s left is a kind of emptiness inside, I feel nothing towards them. I can’t say I enjoy being around them, and I don’t feel that I love them.
How can Jesus command us to love?
Why does it have to be so hard? Once again I look up the well-known words from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount where He tells us to love our enemies.
“But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” Matthew 5:44.
Looking at the verse, I realise that Jesus tells us to do four things here, and the last three are things you can actually go out and do. I mean, it might be difficult, but if someone curses you, you can bless them. It’s possible—you can’t say it’s impossible! The same with the next two, you can physically do good to people that hate you, and you can pray for people even if they are bad to you.
But how can Jesus command us to love people? I mean, love is a feeling, an emotion. How can you make yourself love someone else? You love them or you don’t—that’s how it seems to me anyway.
Love is an action
After a time I decide to talk to an older Christian whom I respect and trust a lot. I explain my problem to him, and finish by saying that it doesn’t seem fair of Jesus to tell us to do things that we have no control over, like how we should feel towards others.
“No, no, you’ve got it all wrong!” he says. “The love Jesus is talking about there isn’t a feeling. It is an action just as all the other things He is telling us to do.”
“Really?” I ask, not really understanding what he means. “Of course,” he replies. “You know what’s written in 1 Corinthians 13, don’t you? That’s the chapter where the Apostle Paul explains what godly love is. Read it carefully—there is nothing written about feelings there.”
I open my Bible to check it out. Sure enough, in 1 Corinthians 13:4 (NCV) it’s written, “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous, it does not brag, and it is not proud. Love is not rude, is not selfish, and does not get upset with others. Love does not count up wrongs that have been done. Love takes no pleasure in evil...”
“See that is what it means to love someone,” he explains. “If you are kind to people, and good to them, and you are not jealous of them, and are not rude to them, then you love them, and it doesn’t matter what your feelings tell you. Then you are obeying Jesus’ command completely.”
It’s like a light switched on in my head! This is something I can do! All this time I’ve been waiting for feelings to come as proof that I love people. I want to feel that I love people before I go out of my way to be kind, patient etc. But it’s the other way round! It’s what I do because I want to love people that is the proof that I do actually love them.
I thank him with a bright smile, and leave with a new hope in me. Now I know that no matter how I feel, I can love every single person I know in the same way that Jesus did.
“Love patiently accepts all things. It always trusts, always hopes, and always endures. Love never ends..." 1 Corinthians 13:7-8 (NCV).