For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same (Matthew 5:46-47)
Tax collectors were not the group of people anyone longed to be compared to in Jesus’ days. They were usually more committed to the Roman government than Jews in their own communities. They often collected more tax than was required because they wanted commendation from government officials. Money was and still is a powerful temptation!
Needless to say, tax collectors weren’t seen as the most loving group of people, so if even they would love people who loved them, holding ourselves to only that standard as a minimum certainly was frowned upon. To love with the love of God went above and beyond. Loving those who love us is easy. Loving enemies isn’t.
How often do you take the easy route, loving the people who are easiest to love, or loving the way and extent that is easiest? We can get into the habit of looking for the people who appreciate the love we give them. We can repeatedly pour into the people who respect us. We all like to hear “thanks,” and we like to receive love in return for the love we’re giving, so we’ll usually pursue those relationships that are reciprocal.
But loving the easy people to love isn’t God’s way. He loves each and every person He has created. It’s hard to fathom. Some people have done some horrible things, but the thing is… God knows how to separate out who someone is and can become from what he or she does and currently is. He doesn’t love the mess of people’s lives, but He loves the people themselves. He knows the power of His redemption. He knows the extent of His grace and mercy. He knows how far His love reaches.
We don’t. We have limited view, and we have limited love when we rely on our own love. When we try to do it on our own, we’re like the tax collectors. We take the easy route. But we don’t need to love with our own love. We shouldn’t love with our own love. It’s not necessary, and it’s not God’s plan. He gives us His love, and He intends for us to live it out in daily life in the same way He expresses it. He is bold with His love. He is consistent with His love. He is generous with His love.
God doesn’t intend for us to live in a bubble of protection. He is our protection. When we’re in His will, we have His protection. But let’s not distort His protection any more than we would distort His love, compassion, mercy, grace, redemption, etc. He doesn’t protect us from everything that we see as harmful. He protects us from what is outside His will.
So if you share God’s love with those who don’t love you and those who don’t associate with you because you’re just too different from them, it’s not guaranteed to go well by your own standards. Everyone is not going to openly accept God’s love from you. Everyone isn’t going to be grateful. Some will be antagonistic and just plain mean. Some will attack, retaliate, judge, and persecute you. Don’t be surprised. God tells us it’s going to happen.
But when you do it God’s way, it’s the right way. It might not be the easy way, but He will honor your obedience and your efforts. You will glorify Him in your submissive trust and reliance on Him.
Dear God, give me Your boldness. Let me not shrink back in timidity into the easy love. Help me to reach beyond the easy love into the challenge of loving those who oppose me or are unlike me. Help me to notice who You have placed within my circles of influence but far enough from me that I have not seen them. Get me out of my comfort zone and challenge me to love the unlovable. I will not try to do it in my own strength but will trust You for all provision.