Why Christian Love is Expensive

A key element of survival is to know who you can count on to help you stay alive. The reverse is equally important: who is not trustworthy? Deep within our human psyche, we have a “homing device” that detects enemies. It works well, with both speed and precision, when we’re in the wilderness worrying about a mama bear intent on protecting her cub.

The same system helps us when we’re in a social setting, worrying about protecting ourselves from a bully or an abusive individual. The challenge comes when we use this system to determine the boundaries of who we allow into our hearts and who we don’t; who we choose to love and who doesn’t deserve our love. I say “a problem” because we tend to love only those who love us, something that Jesus seriously opposed.

In the words of Skye Jethani, “The narcissist loves only himself. The nationalist loves only his tribe. The activist loves only his cause. The idealist loves only his thoughts. The humanist loves only his concept of humanity. The Christian loves the irritating person right in front of him.”

“You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor[a] and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven. For he causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward will you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what are you doing out of the ordinary? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. - Matthew 5:43-48

Jesus meant it when He called us to love our enemy. That kind of love shocks us.

We consider that kind of love too expensive, and in fact, it is expensive. To love our enemy is to seek their best interest above our own (Philippians 2:3-11). Such a love shows someone favor, devoid of any positive response, romance, emotional gain, or relational benefit. But this kind of love was exactly the kind Jesus showed us when we were still sinners.

We know God loves the evil person, because “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and send rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:45 NIV) He loves the person who does not love Him. He loves first (1 John 4:19). He does not withhold His love from His Creation and is generous with that love.

Since God alone knows the heart, He has the ability to justly determine who is evil and who is not—yet He chooses to love both.

Jesus insists there are serious implications for those who love only those who love them back. They already have received, on Earth, all the reward they will ever get. But loving our enemies brings a much greater reward, “that you may be children of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:45).

To love our enemy requires us to be on the side of people, no matter what they do in return. We are to seek their best interests, even when they provoke us to dislike them. We are to love, even if we do not receive the apology or approval that we deserve. We are to do good, simply because Jesus calls us to do good. This type of love is costly.


This article is an excerpt from The Image of God, a Bible study from Ines Franklin and Steve Bang Lee. Download a free sample of The Image of God.

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