“This is my command: Love each other.” John 15:10-20
Easy, right? To love. For some, love is easy – we have been showered with love; we know what it looks like, what it feels like to be loved. We love others how we have been loved. We kiss and hug and smile and give and laugh and share and talk and help and do all the things that we think love is. It’s easy to love when we have experience with it. It’s easy to love when the people we love are lovable, and especially when they love us back.
But what if we have little or no experience with love? What if life dealt us a mean hand, and we don’t know what it’s like to be loved freely? What if we were kicked, beaten, starved, put down, and hated? How do we construct something out of nothing? How do we love if we don’t know what it’s like? What if we are surrounded by people who don’t know how to love? What if we consider the people who surround us to be unlovable?
Though we crave it as humans and seek it out, something always seems to happens in life that turns us against love. Betrayal and hurt are powerful emotions and create seemingly impenetrable barriers, and any growth happens around the hard places. We wind around these past hurts like a tree confronted with an obstacle, meandering its way around it to find the light again. What’s left is a malformed thing, twisted and bent. When love is missing, our spirit merely learns how to survive. Instead of growing straight, strong, and true, we are crooked and broken.
It's easy to turn our behavior and our words against those who don’t love us, or who we feel are unworthy of our love. We make fun of, bully, berate, and ignore those who we deem undeserving of love. Human nature has an ugly side, and we let it fly when confronted with someone who means nothing to us or worse, who has hurt us. We fight back with discord and dislike instead of allowing love to heal.
I’ve been hurt before. I’ve been the object of dislike and discord, have felt rebuffed and unloved. And I have also disliked, ignored, and put down others whom I’ve refused to love. The absence of love feels like a bottomless pit, a dark nothing with no boundaries and no end. Whether coming to us or originating within us, feeling no love is a numbness that I do not wish to feel regularly.
How we come about love may be complicated; we may not know how to love due to past or present problems. For me, to know that we are to love is enough. Maybe we aren’t given specific instructions on how to love because that’s the part where we are to lean on God’s wisdom and understanding. Maybe loving is so hard at times because God wants us to ask for help on how to do it. God knows what we should do; he waits for us to look to him.
I appreciate Jesus’ simple command to love. When the chaos of bad feelings and past hurt haunts me, “Love each other” rises above the endless feed of negativity. It is our calling, and I am not above asking God for help with it when my tendency is to do everything but love.
It helps me to know that we are directed to love. To obey God. All else is under his control.