Everyone knows the famous line from 1 Corinthians 13:4 - "Love is patient, love is kind, etc." It has been the topic of many homilies at my home parish. This weekend, our pastor pointed out that true love is not the huggy, kissy, touchy-feely notion that today's society has come to equate with love.
Love, as described in Paul's letter to the Corinthians, evolves from the Greek word agape. Agape is love without conditions or motivations. It is freely given to all, regardless of who you are or what you do. Someone filled with agape for others freely chooses to serve without expectation of service in return ("...It does not seek its own interests..." 1 Cor. 13:5). God's love is agape, God's agape is revealed to us in Jesus, and through our faith in Jesus, we become a channel for communicating this wonderful love to others.
Coincidentally, this very idea came up again last night when I was having a conversation with my friend, Paul. We were throwing around ideas about our faith and what it means to live life as a Christian. Out of the blue, he told me, "If I could only preach one sermon in my entire life, I would entitle it, 'Loving the unlovables.'" I pondered this for a moment, and realized the importance for all Christians to have agape for those we wouldn't consider as our friends, or people we don't believe are worthy of our love. Love should be defined as willing the good for another.
In Jesus' time, people avoided association with lepers because they considered them unclean and outcasts. In today's world, we might consider many to be unlovables -- perhaps the hardest to love are those who we consider our "enemies" for one reason or another. There are a myriad of reasons we might be able to justify to ourselves why we shouldn't love someone. As Christians, we sometimes fall short in sharing Christ's perfect agape with these people and instead decide to shun them, or have no feelings for them one way or the other. This is an area where we need to improve; it is no doubt one of the most important things God calls us to do.
Can you apply God's form of agape to those you consider unlovables?
(Many thanks to my friend Paul whose inspiration helped me to write this post.)