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As president of Grace Communion International, I hear about many inspiring outreach projects that our congregations are engaged in around the world. Some are simple acts of kindness and service to those in need. Others are quite extensive, with several congregations, sometimes across two or three countries, working together on such projects as providing education for disadvantaged children, vocational training for young adults, and employment support for poor but hardworking families. This is one of the great blessings that comes from being a relatively small, yet very interconnected worldwide denomination.
Christian service and outreach is motivated by God’s love, which fills us, and which the Holy Spirit prompts us to share with others. But have you ever wondered about the many examples of genuine and generous love by people who are not Christians, some of whom might not even believe in God? Where does such love come from?
“Let us love one another, for love comes from God,” 1 John 4:7 says. A few verses later we’re told, “God is love.” “Whoever lives in love lives in God and God in them,” verse 16 continues.
Do you see the implication? Because the Creator is love, it is “hardwired” into the creation, and into every human. This means wherever and whenever we see the expression of love, regardless of the source, we are seeing God’s love, because no other kind of love exists. “We love because he first loved us,” says 1 John 4:19.
So what is so special about what we call “Christian love”?
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, ”Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:9-12 NIV)
Jesus was pointing to a love that goes far deeper than simply loving those who love us, those who are good to us, those we naturally care about. He was talking about a love that extends to those whom we don’t like, and even to those who despise or hate us, who mistreat us, and might be our enemies.
Earlier in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?” (Matthew 5:43-47 NIV)
This is how God loves us – Christ died for us while we were still God’s enemies, Paul tells us in Romans 5:8. God loves his enemies, and it is that love, a love without bounds or conditions, which turns enemies into friends.
I’m Joseph Tkach, speaking of LIFE.