It is amazing how unloving we can be, even as disciples of the one who embodied the perfect example of our Father's love. Jesus set many examples and taught exactly what real love looks like. Yet, we struggle with the "deny yourself" aspect of love. We struggle not just with strangers and enemies but with family. In fact, I suspect we are hardest on family.
God is love, says John the apostle, and we can see that from the first moments of creation. Yahweh even wrote it into the Hebrew law, again and again:
"You must not take revenge nor hold a grudge against any of your people; instead, you must love your neighbour as yourself; I am the Lord." (Leviticus 19:18)
Imagine that, revenge and holding grudges are not acts of love. In this law Yahweh was dealing specifically with the Israel family, but we know that Jesus told us, his followers, we need to apply this to those who consider us their enemy:
"You have heard that it was said, You must love your neighbour and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who harass you so that you will be acting as children of your Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 5:43-45)
Just as Yahweh had called Israel to be a holy nation, set aside to bring him glory, giving them a law so much greater than any thing that existed in the other nations, so Jesus has called us apart to bring glory to Father. He put it to us this way:
"If you love only those who love you, what reward do you have? Don't even the tax collectors do the same?" (v. 46)
Now back to the revenge and grudge thing. It happens to the best of us. We are still growing, making mistakes, learning and pressing on to maturity. The problem comes when we start keeping a list instead of confessing our error and releasing it. Paul the apostle told us that love does not keep a list of wrongs. So when we find ourselves with a list we tell Jesus what we have done and then let it go by forgiving everything wrong on that list, and never bringing them up again, no matter how much they would re-enforcing a future argument. When it is released it no longer exists, forgotten, just as Jesus has done for us.
Remember, Jesus told us to love each other as he has loved us. John told us that we cannot love Yahweh and hate a brother. It just doesn't work. When we love our God we love all that he loves, and it is only evil (as in the spiritual dark enemies of Yahweh) that we hate. Our fight is not against flesh and blood but dark principalities. No, the flesh and blood is what our Father loves, the reason Jesus came to die, resurrect, ascend to the Father and send the Holy Spirit. He loves them, and so must we. Everyone of them.
Glorify Father today. Get rid of the list.