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To love God's way
- Jacob Ninan
When two people fall in love with each other and get married, why does God have to exhort husbands to love their wives (Ep.5:25) and older women to train younger women to love their husbands (Ti.2:3,4)? Married people know that the euphoric feeling of 'love' cools off after the 'honeymoon phase', and in reality it is sometimes difficult to love one's spouse. There were many things that you liked about each other before you got married which seem to have disappeared. Now you are now struggling to just bear with your spouse and you wonder whether you like him/her anymore now!
Jesus went a step further when He asked us to love our enemies (Mt.5:44). How can we ever love those we cannot even like? God wouldn't be so unrealistic as to expect us to like them. Then how can He ask us to love them? Does He like us when we sin, holy and perfect God that He is? But He loves us!
The mistake we make in this kind of thinking is that of assuming that to love is a higher form of liking. Isn't that why we say, "I love chocolates," or "I love that music"? But love is quite different from liking someone or something. That is why instead of telling us to like our enemies, our husband or wife, He asks us to love them.
When God tells us to love our enemies, what He also tells us, by way of explanation, is to bless those who curse us and pray for those who abuse us (Lk.6:28), to do good to the to the ungrateful, the evil (v.35) and the unjust (Mt.5:45), and doing to them what we wish they would do to us (Lk.6:31). In other words, our intention is to be good to everyone irrespective of whether they are good or evil to us, and we are to actually do good to them instead of returning evil for evil, or treating them according to their behaviour. That is divine love. When we were God's enemies, and doing things He hated, He wanted to bless us and do us good, and therefore gave His Son to die for us so that we could be saved. That is the love He wants us to have, and not nice feelings of 'like'.
Suddenly this kind of love becomes attainable. Instead of struggling to make ourselves like and thereafter 'love' others, we can intend good (and only good) for others, and do good (and never evil) towards them. Now we can understand why husbands and wives need to be exhorted to love like this. When they cannot like certain things they notice in each other, they can still choose to desire good for the other and continue to do good.
Why do we need training in this? It's because when we have to continue to be good, we have to put to death our fleshly desires for vengeance, forgive and continue to be good. At the same time we don't have to twist our minds to force ourselves to 'like' the others or ignore their faults. We can honestly reckon with the fact that there are certain things wrong with the others (as also with us) and still continue to be good to them. Let us ask God to pour out this kind of love into our heart and mind.