“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. (NLT)
We can be very selective when it comes to loving others. We may pat ourselves on the back for loving those who love us in return, for loving others for their own loveliness. We may confuse loving with liking when the two are very different. I am called to love people I have never met, but I can’t realistically like someone I have never met.
Jesus speaks of a far more radical love which embraces those who are not at all lovely. We are to love those who may have nothing but hatred towards us. So it is that we have to redefine love. It is not about warm and fuzzy feelings. It is not about loving in order to get loved in return.
The sort of love Jesus has in mind is that which seeks the good of another person, which at the very least does not hit back at them and at the very most acts in their best interests. So love at this level is quite compatible with disapproval, with frustration, even with distaste. Trying to feel loving, trying to like or approve of that other person, is not the pathway to true love. True love is an act of the will.
The sort of love envisaged by Jesus does not come naturally but supernaturally.