We never really know how much true love we hold in our hearts until someone seemingly unloveable comes across our way. There are times when we are brought to a point of asking God to give us His love for others because we simply have none of our own to give.
1 John 4:8 says, “He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.” As people whose very souls have been saved by the love of Christ, we are compelled to channel the Lord’s love to others in the same way He loved.
We know Christ loved unconditionally. Whether it was the woman who committed adultery, or His disciples who constantly let Him down, or the very guards who hung Him on the cross, Christ showed genuine love to all without reservation. It’s easy to love those who love us, but Christ asks us to love others without requiring anything from them.
“For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye?,” Christ asks in Matthew 5:46- 48. “Do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? Do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect.” Jesus loved everyone despite how blind, self-obsessed and cruel they were.
Not only are we supposed to love others without seeking benefit, we are to love those who would do us harm. Jesus turned the narrative around when He instructed the Jews. He took their preconceived conclusions of how to treat people and turned them on their head.
“Ye have heard that it hath been said, ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy,’” Jesus said. “But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you.” (Matthew 5:43-44)
It’s clear that Christ loved unconventionally. He loved those who hated Him, and He loved those who could give nothing back. But how did Christ show His love? Naturally we think of His sacrifice on the cross, and Christ did say that there is no greater sacrifice than for a man to lay down his life for a friend. (John 15:13)
But love does not always look like what we expect, and Christ demonstrated that, too. When Jesus rebuked the Pharisees, He spoke not only because of His love for God the Father and His laws, but because of His love for the Pharisees. For them to repent and receive God’s grace, the Pharisees needed to have the truth spoken to them.
Tough love is being lovingly honest with someone when they do something wrong. Sometimes, loving someone means being willing to sacrifice their perception of you to give them truth that will lead them back to God. It can be a delicate process to love others this way and should be done in the safety of a multitude of counselors, but it is a Biblical form of God’s love. Galatians 6:1 speaks of “restoring” a brother who has transgressed God’s law, and Matthew 18 gives specific instructions for how a church is to show their love by correcting a wayward member.
Christians ought to be experts at love, and we have no better role model than Christ Himself. “This is my commandment,” Jesus said in John 15:12, “that ye love one another, as I have loved you.”