Being loved is a beautiful thing. We can all remember a time when someone demonstrated their love for us – a parent, a sibling, a friend, or a spouse. The depth of connection in those experiences leaves a permanent impression on our memories. Why? Every act of love lavished upon us involved a sacrifice by the lover, often something that cannot be repaid or returned. Jesus’ brother James wrote that faith without works is dead (James 2:17). In other words, love without sacrifice isn’t love at all, but only empty promises.
It also doesn’t matter how deep the love is. Even the simplest expression requires the giving of oneself to another. Watching my grandchild share their favorite toy with someone else brings a smile to my face, along with the understanding that there has been a cost involved. On the other end of the spectrum, we see Jesus dying for us while we were still sinners (Rom 5:8). He said, “The greatest love is demonstrated by laying down one’s life for another” (my paraphrase of Jn 15:13).
So, when Jesus instructs us to love our “enemies,” he is telling us to make sacrifices for them, to put them ahead of ourselves. It is easy to let that instruction slip from our memory and lifestyle. I would venture to guess that most of us have trouble loving our family and friends in that way. Selfishness runs deep.
What do we do now? I tend to become frozen in my guilt and inaction, but that leads nowhere. Instead of being stuck in inaction, resolve within yourself to do one thing today; make one loving sacrifice for someone else. It doesn’t have to be a big thing. Start small, and then allow the Holy Spirit to lead you to the next level. This kind of change in character will take God’s work in our lives over a long time. Be patient and gracious with yourself. God is, and he is faithful to continue his work in us until the day Jesus returns (my paraphrase of Phil 1:6).
Love is defined by sacrifice.