The love of Christ is not like the love of the world. It is different. It isn’t concerned with self. It trusts itself to God and sees the needs of others first. Jesus commanded us to love in two different ways. First He quoted an Old Covenant command that along with “Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength” sums up the entire law, “love your neighbor as you love yourself.” (Mark 12:30-31). This command was given to everyone, followers or not. How do we love ourselves? Our needs are our priority. Our concerns are known to us and those are the ones we meet. So to love someone else that way is to give their needs the same urgency as our own. But later when Jesus spoke to His disciples He gave them a new command, something that would only be possible because of faith, because of what Jesus would do for us. He laid down His life to forgive sin, He gave us the Holy Spirit to transform us to His image. In John 13:34-35 He said,
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
How did Jesus love us? He put our needs above His own. He was willing to sacrifice Himself for us. He listened to the disciples, cared about them, taught them, and led them. He was empathetic. The only people He spoke ‘judgmental’ words to were the religious people who thought they were perfect. He saw us as the destitute people we were, gave us His righteousness and His name and made us royalty.
Because we have the Holy Spirit, we can love like that. And when we do, the world takes notice. They see the difference in us. They recognize their sin within them, so they are either drawn to Christ or they hate us passionately for Him. And so it was with David. He was a man after God’s own heart. He was righteous, not because he was perfect, but because he loved the Lord with all his heart and because he viewed the world through God’s heart. Verses 1-3 read,
“Blessed is the one who considers the poor!
In the day of trouble the Lord delivers him;
2 the Lord protects him and keeps him alive;
he is called blessed in the land;
you do not give him up to the will of his enemies.
3 The Lord sustains him on his sickbed;
in his illness you restore him to full health.”
David was very sick when he wrote this psalm. He trusted the Lord to sustain him and carry him through it. He was the the powerful and wealthy King. But even in his suffering he was concerned for the poor. He knew they depended on him as he depended on God. But David had many enemies who wished to usurp his throne and abuse his power. They would be thrilled if he stayed sick and even died. Verses 4-10 read,
“As for me, I said, “O Lord, be gracious to me;
heal me, for I have sinned against you!”
5 My enemies say of me in malice,
“When will he die, and his name perish?”
6 And when one comes to see me, he utters empty words,
while his heart gathers iniquity;
when he goes out, he tells it abroad.
7 All who hate me whisper together about me;
they imagine the worst for me.
8 They say, “A deadly thing is poured out on him;
he will not rise again from where he lies.”
9 Even my close friend in whom I trusted,
who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.
10 But you, O Lord, be gracious to me,
and raise me up, that I may repay them!”
Just like our love for others distinguishes us, so does the world’s hate for us. Jesus told us the world would hate us. John 15:18-19 says,
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”
Does that mean we have license to hate them back? No, that is a flesh response. Later in the same chapter John 15:26-27 Jesus told the disciples about The Holy Spirit.
“But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.27 And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.”
Far from responding in kind, Jesus commanded that we are to love our enemies and pray for them. Matthew 5:43-45 reads,
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 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.”
Love is not a feeling, it is an action. It is borne by our kindness, gentleness, compassion, patience, and self-control. It is possible because we know God. We keep in mind what He has done for us. We remember who we were before Jesus was our Lord. We have God’s Holy Spirit within us. And we trust God to keep us and we know vengeance is His, not ours. David ended this psalm with verses 11-13.
“By this I know that you delight in me:
my enemy will not shout in triumph over me.
12 But you have upheld me because of my integrity,
and set me in your presence forever.
13 Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
from everlasting to everlasting!
Amen and Amen.”
Do you trust God enough to tangibly love your enemies? Jesus loves them. He commanded that we love them too. When you trust in God completely, when you love Him with your entire being, the difficult task of loving those who hate you becomes easier. God will not ever let you go. Your hope is Jesus Christ and the eternal life He gave you. God is within you, just as you are within Him. You can love with His heart because He gave you His Holy Spirit.