The more I walk and talk with Jesus, the more it seems he is focusing me on this concept. When I see situations where I’m provoked to respond, he asks me if my response is that of love. Often times this can be a humbling experience, but I wouldn’t change the beauty of this relationship for anything.
I was in a discussion with a few people and the question came up about war. My first thought, having been a soldier, was to think that we should defend those that are being attacked as it would be justified. Before I could respond with that though, Jesus interceded with, “Is that love?” I hesitated and begin to think of the ramifications of my first thought. After a few moments and a few hundred thoughts, I remembered the situation during Jesus’ earthly ministry. The Romans were torturing and murdering any who tried to threaten Rome’s dominance. Thousands of angels were at Jesus’ call (Matt 26:53). Crowds attempted to crown him king (John 6:15). Rebels and zealots were at the ready to attack the Roman occupiers. Palm Sunday attendees cried out Hosanna (Matt 21:9), pleading with Jesus to save them from the Romans. The stage was set. The rebellion was about to being. All the players were in position. The Messiah had come.
Jesus, though having the power to demolish the Romans…..didn’t. He chose a different way. He chose to love them instead. He even chose to die to prove his love rather than start a war. And he calls us to love our enemies in the same way (Matt 5:44) and to pick up our cross and follow him (Matt 16:24). He calls us to be love to those who only know hate but not because we have to. As we fall more in love with him, we have the desire to. We get to be part of Jesus’ plan to show the world love. And that is something worth dying for, even daily (1 Cor 15:31).
No matter the theological dance we do to justify our stance in defending God or the Bible, claiming “just” war, excluding or harassing others because they don’t conform to our standards, justifying our denomination/doctrine/political affiliation/bias, or trying to make ourselves appear more righteous/moral/superior—it is beneficial to first ask if our actions are love or just attempts to justify our hatred. When we search the Bible to find scriptural ammunition just to defend our position, asking if our preconceptions are out of love or justified hatred is the best step towards our conclusions. The religious people of Jesus’ time also justified their stances with Biblical backing but their way was to destroy their hated enemies. In this, they were looking for the Messiah to come and do just that. Additional, we can form infinite “what if” scenarios, redirect our efforts towards sin management, and attach “but” to our love statements to dance around our deficiency under the guise of theology. However, Jesus tells us not to be anxious (Matt 6:24) and just pursue love (Matt 22:37-40). When we truly fall in love with Jesus, our love for others naturally flows from that.
It can’t be mandated or obligated, then it is no longer love. Love is a choice. The choice to receive it from God, return it to him freely, and heap it on others.