Faith: True Love – Pine and Lakes Echo Journal

Are you a loving person? I am for sure. I love everyone because I am kind and caring. I am a good person, and good people love everyone. Right?

Well, maybe not “everyone”. There were those kids who used to bully me on the school bus when I was a boy. I’m not sure I like them. And… there were those trusted friends who cheated and manipulated me. I don’t trust or care much about them anymore. Have you also seen how people behave on social media?

I’ve had enough encounters with “friends” who are downright mean! I can’t say I care much about ‘those’ people. The more I think about it, the more I realize I don’t like “everyone”. Do you know who I really love? I like people who believe what I believe, value what I value and live as I live. I love people who love me in turn. Those people are easy to love. It’s much harder for everyone else, and Jesus reminds me that I may not be as loving as I think I am. “If you love those who love you, what do you earn? Even sinners love those who love them” (Luke 6:32).

We all do this, don’t we? When I ask the question, “Are you a loving person?” the natural response is, “Of course I am! I love everyone. I’m a good person.” We like to think of ourselves as loving and good, but are we really as good as we think we are? Jesus didn’t think so. He said, “No one is good – except God alone” (Luke 18:19). Do we love as much as we imagine we do? I doubt it. It’s much easier for us to imagine ourselves loving than to actually love those around us.

Real love is not abstract or theoretical. It doesn’t just exist in the imagination. What I mean by this is that real love requires both real action and real persons as the object of our love. It is easy to imagine that I am a loving person and act on my imagination by doing nothing. It is much more difficult to perform acts of love for real people who are annoying and ungrateful. Real love is hard. It requires effort and it doesn’t always feel right. It often involves suffering and sacrifice. The greatest example of true love is that Jesus willingly suffers and dies on the cross for us. That’s real love, but it didn’t feel right. True love is hard and beautiful.

I have one last comment when I imagine I love “everyone”. I don’t like everyone. Why? Because I’m way too small. I only know a few thousand people out of the billions who live on this planet, and I rarely take the time to truly love those I know. I’m just a man of limited time and ability, and I think this is a good starting point when thinking about real love. When asked what the greatest commandment is, Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God…and love your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27). Did you notice that second part and what Jesus didn’t say? He didn’t say, “Love everyone.” He didn’t say, “Imagine you’re a good person who loves all people.” No, he says we need to do something much harder and real. “Go do loving acts for the really difficult and messy people who live close to you.”

Are you a loving person? How do you actually love your partner? Your overbearing in-laws? Your curious neighbors? Your ungrateful children and grandchildren? Your annoying friends on social media? We may not be as loving as we imagine, but here’s the good news: we can start doing something about our lack of love. Start by praying for real people in your life. Pray for their well-being and then do simple acts of love for them. Love is so simple… and hard. This is true love; no love in the imagination.

Tristan Borland is pastor at Riverview Church in Pine River

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