Over the summer I worked from about 6:30 am to 11:30 pm. If you too have worked at a camp, then your schedule was probably something similar. You understand the busyness of new high schoolers every week, feeding them, taking them to mission sites, showing them fun activities and planning games and events. All the while there is troubleshooting – not enough eggs for breakfast, not enough shovels at the work site. The whole time you’re smiling, sometimes genuinely and sometimes forced. But you’re there to give them a great week and gosh dang even if it’s raining all week you will personally push the clouds away so they can have their beach day.
But then, there was the week that Troy’s group came. He didn’t care if we were on time, or if there was enough work at our project site, or if we ran out of broccoli for dinner. If there was a problem he addressed the situation, but he never attached the situation with my character. Despite my being there to serve him and the youth, he continually asked what he could do for me.
“Chocolate milk,” he said one time. “One summer there was a staff member who worked so hard, and he said the thing that would make his day would be chocolate milk. It reminded him of home. So I spent a dollar fifty, and made someone’s day. It’s that easy.”
That’s when I understood unconditional love a little better. To see others not as a situation but a someone. Not as a project but a person. Not as an opportunity to prove a point but an opportunity to point to love.
Why though? Why go through the effort of loving so intentionally if it’s so hard?
In John 8 an adulteress woman was brought before Jesus. They wanted to call out her sins, bring her into truth and so they thrust her in front of Jesus. What would he do, how would he condemn her?
Jesus sees and knows the truth. He calls out her sin and calls out the sins of all those there by saying, “Let him who is the first without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” When they all acknowledge their sin and leave he looks at the woman and says, “From now on sin no more.”
The purpose of God’s truth is to set people free.
And if love’s not hard, you aren’t loving all the right people. My friend this week said she was nervous about starting a Bible Study with someone because although they seemed interested in Jesus, they also seemed put-off and not fully engaged in the idea. She looked at me though and said, “But I have to love my neighbor, and I know she needs Jesus. It’s hard but it’ll be worth it.”
Psalm 23 is David talking to God saying, “You have prepared a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows.”
David appears to have a strength here, a deep peace to endure his enemies at the table. But what if along with enduring his enemies, he was preparing David to love his enemies? Didn’t David intervene for Solomon’s life while Solomon was pursuing David’s death? That’s more than enduring someone, that’s showing a mercy that only heaven supplies.
If David is at a table and looks up and sees Solomon, identifies his enemy and saves his life, what a work God is doing in both of their lives.
The Presence of God is for me and for the person sitting across from me.
Luke 6:35 says, “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High.”
This is the same part that says to turn your cheek and give your coat to those who ask. How we treat others shows how far along we are in our faith. And if living that way sounds too hard then you are at the opportune moment to let Jesus take over. You are equipped to endure and love your enemies.
In the story of the good Samaritan, everyone walks past the injured man except the Samaritan. He stopped because he saw him. Then he had compassion. A man from who people expected nothing did everything. Loving well is often inconvenient but always rewarding.
People who don’t know Jesus haven’t really experienced his love. And you don’t have to be nice to someone just to get them to be a Christian, because people know when you love with an agenda. Jesus loved a lot of people who didn’t believe in him. He loved them to save them and have them known as a child of God, which didn’t come just from how he spoke, but also in how he loved.
Be like the Samaritan and see. First see the need – listen to your roommates, ask your professor, find the lone person at lunch. See and show compassion. You are equipped to love exceedingly well. Whether it’s buying a chocolate milk or offering immense forgiveness or bandaging a wound, your yes to love is a yes to Jesus.