Love is an essential character of a Christian, and unconditional love is evidence of a mature Christian. However, unconditional love is not easy, and, therefore, it is rare. It is especially rare in societies where reciprocity (i.e. getting even) is accepted as the norm. As a result, some people question whether or not Jesus’ commandment of unconditional love is practical. Furthermore, there are even some theologians who contend that Jesus didn’t intend for His disciples have to exhibit unconditional love. Nevertheless, according to the Bible, Jesus commanded His disciples to love unconditionally. Furthermore, He taught such love is the evidence of being a child of God.
It is important to note that Jesus taught His disciples to love everyone, including their enemies (Matthew 5:44). He gave this commandment right after He instructed them not to resist the evil one and turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:39). Jesus was not saying that we should not seek justice, fairness, and equality. Instead, His teaching is about exhibiting endurance, patience, and self-control in genuine love. In other words, there is no support of reciprocity in Jesus’ teaching on love. The Apostle Peter testified in his first letter that Jesus modeled His own teaching because “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return” and “when he suffered, he did not threaten” (1 Peter 2:23). This tells us Jesus’ heart was full of unconditional love absent any concerns for reciprocity, and this is what Christians have to learn.
The most undeniable demonstration of unconditional love comes from Jesus’ suffering and death. He did not suffer and die only for those who love Him (Romans 5:6-8, 10). He loved to the end even sinners. His suffering and death were for all sinners of all generations (Hebrews 10:12), including those who betrayed Him, who bore false witness against Him, who put the crown of thorns on His head, who ridiculed Him, who slapped Him, who spat on Him, who flogged Him, who put nails in His hands and feet, and who turned away from Him as He was dying on the cross (cf. Luke 23:34). Jesus’ suffering and death is the perfect example of the unconditional love of God carried out by a human being. His example challenges His followers to practice such love even more than His words do. Therefore, for those who are saved by the love of Jesus, choosing reciprocity instead of love is evidence that he or she is not yet mature or even born again of God’s love.
What is evident according to the Bible is that the love Jesus possessed originated from His Father. Everything that Jesus taught and did was from what He saw in God (John 5:19). That is why He identified unconditional love as the evidence of God’s children (John 13:35). God loves everyone regardless of whether or not they love Him in return (Matthew 5:46-47). Therefore, when we possess and exhibit this love, we emulate the Spirit of God I (e.g., Matthew 5:40-42, 18:22; Luke 6:38; Acts 4:32-35, 20:35; 1 Corinthians 6:7; 1 Peter 2:20-21; 1 John 3:16-18).
It is evident by what has been mentioned so far that, even though it is not easy, we, as God’s children and Jesus’ followers, are born of and called to possess unconditional love. Practicing such love is really rare in the world because it is difficult. But that doesn’t mean Jesus’ commandment of such love is impractical. Its rareness is the reason that such love is the evidence of God’s children, true discipleship, and true life (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3). Therefore, it is illogical to think it is okay for Christ’s followers not to love someone, even those who do evil or cause harm. Reciprocity does not and cannot exist in the Spirit demonstrated by the suffering and death of Jesus. Therefore, those reborn of the Spirit will not allow it to breathe in their heart either.
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