Jesus said this in John 15:10-15,
If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.
Keeping the Father's commands was not easy. It meant living a misunderstood life, as Jesus walked with people who didn't understand and were slow to believe. It meant inconvenience as Jesus chose routes not according to proximity, but souls. It meant the hard road of suffering instead of a quick and easy death.
As Jesus prepared His disciples for His departure He gave them the command to love. Paul would later stress the importance of this again.
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another... Romans 13:8
The love Jesus and Paul are talking about, indebted love, is the harder love. It's loving the coach or the teacher who hasn't treated your child the best. It's loving the neighbor who yells at your kids and loving the neighbor who blocks the road and even the neighbor who plays screeching music way too late at night. It's loving the annoying co-worker and loving your spouse during his ugly moments.
It's the "in spite of" love. Jesus loved the rich young man in spite of his inability to understand the depth of the commandments. He loved the woman at the well in spite of her five failed marriages and promiscuous lifestyle. He loved the thief on the cross in spite of the fact that he had been hurling insults at him during his darkest moments and he loved the people who put him on the cross--in spite of what they'd done.
The greatest of the commands is to love; God first, then others. If we're going to do this the way God intended we're going to need to love when it's hard to love.
What does this look like? Last weekend while my family enjoyed a meal together someone told about another child; one that had on more than one occasion misbehaved in front of my children. Just a few hours earlier the less than stellar behavior happened in front of me. It was annoying, especially when the child continued after I asked the child to stop.
I agreed with my children and pointed it out as rebellion and unacceptable. I suppose, I decided, we ought to pray for this child and try to show them extra love.
At prayers that night two of my children brought up this child and we prayed for a changed heart.
Complaining does nothing. Gossiping does nothing. To pray, and be concerned about what is going on in the heart, is to love.
If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Luke 6:32-36
Are you after a greater reward? I am! So think about the people who have hurt you. Forgive them. Pray for them. Love them.
Amber Albee Swenson is a forgiven child of God, and that's what she writes and speaks about. She has written four books. "Bible Moms: Life Lessons from Mothers in the Bible" and "The Whisper Theory" have been in print. "The Bread of Angels" is a new release and "Ladies of Legacy" is in the last phase of publication.