This Sunday morning in our church worship service, our pastor continued his series on Galatians, moving into chapter 5 verses 22-23. This talks about the fruit of the Spirit, starting with love. In expanding what this selfless “agape” love is like, the pastor asked us to consider how we love those who we don’t naturally get along with well.
This reminds me of Matthew 5:43-48, part of Jesus’ sermon on the mount. The real test of our love isn’t by acting caring and kind and generous to people we like. I can feel love fairly easily towards my wife, family, friends, co-workers – perhaps going out-of-the-way to say or do something special. But how much of my motivation is love, true love, as opposed to giving to receive back? These people will likely acknowledge my “love” by expressing their appreciating, returning the favour, or just thinking of my in a better light (at least I might hope so). Isn’t that straight-up selfishness then?
A far better test is how I show love to someone who will not appreciate it, know, or perhaps even care. A great example of this is an infant. If a little baby is hungry or stewing in a soiled diaper, he can’t give back anything once I’ve helped him (aside from ceasing to wail, and perhaps smelling better!). And he doesn’t give a rip about my needs or the possible inconvenience of his demand. The attitude with which I serve the baby will be a mirror to the quality of the agape love in my heart, tainted as it will still be by selfishness. Becoming a father has shown me lots of unpleasant things in my heart that were otherwise fairly easy to miss.
Real love is hard. It focuses on what’s best for the other person above what I want, or even what the other person wants. Our pastor gave the supreme example of God’s love: Christ died for us while we were still sinners, His enemies (Romans 5:7-8). He heaped my selfishness and all my other sins on Himself and took the penalty, and broke the power of sin’s reign over me. With the Holy Spirit’s empowering and this humbling knowledge, may my love continue to loose it’s give-to-get in favour of selflessness. I’ve got far to go…