January 13, 2012 § 4 Comments
Christians don’t have a monopoly on love. In fact, some might claim that a loving Christian is an oxymoron. For many, the words ‘evangelical Christian’ would say more about one’s political views than one’s character.
So when Paul says that the fruit of the Spirit is love (Galatians 5:22), what does he mean? Is there a type of love that is uniquely Christian? A kind of supernatural love that is the fruit of the Spirit of Christ?
Luke 6:27-36 is a useful though unlikely starting point. In this short course on discipleship, Jesus reveals the essence of love that is uniquely Christian.
He describes three kinds of love:
1. Common love: ‘If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.’ This is a love that all are capable of because all are made in the image of a loving God. It’s a love that can be found among Muslims, Buddhists, and atheists. It’s a love of a mother for a child, a husband for a wife, a citizen for a nation.
2. Uncommon love: ‘Love your enemies.’ Here we get to the heart of distinctively Christian love. No other religion or religious teacher demands we love our enemies. Jesus’ command goes way beyond pacifism. He doesn’t merely say, ‘Deal justly with your enemy’ or even ‘Respond to your enemy non-violently.’ He says we must love our enemies. Just as God took extreme measures to love us, we must go to extreme lengths for the welfare and well-being of our enemies.
3. Triumphant love: ‘Love your enemies … and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High…’ Jesus’ teaching is not directed to governments, armies, or police forces. He’s speaking to disciples. To be a disciple Jesus says we must abandon our rights to security and self-preservation and attach ourselves solely to him. The kind of love Jesus calls us to cannot be imitated, it cannot be done without him. It is only possible through radical attachment to him through humble and vulnerable faith. It is the fruit of the Spirit, the cross, and the word of Christ.
“We shall match your ability to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering… Throw us in jail and we shall still love you.” Martin Luther King, Jr.