By: Abby Watson
Do you ever feel like the call to love your neighbor is just a price too steep?
I do. On a daily basis I look across the cubicle, the church aisle, and the kitchen table and think, “No, Jesus, that’s too much to ask of me.”
But one day a pastor shared with me the words that changed my life:
God never asks us to do anything he himself hasn’t done.
Does he ask you to take up your cross and lose your life? Hello, Good Friday. Does he ask you to join a community of believers? Hello, Jesus who had best friends. Does he ask you to eat with those whose lives should repel you? Hello, Zacheous. Does he ask you to forgive the one who offends you? He’s forgiven your every offense, past, present, and future. He’s done all this and so much more.
Paul tells us in Galatians the root of all these asks. “For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement: “Love your neighbor as yourself. I have not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it.” God, who is love, designed humans to thrive in love. He gave us commands to return to his original, good design, and he gives us himself so that we are restored. All in love.
Yet while we wait for his return, my inability to follow this Law of Love nags at me. Where does God leave me when I most definitely do not keep the law to love my neighbor? What do I do when I find myself exposed and empty-handed?
I repent at Jesus’ invitation! (Matthew 11:28, Mark 2:17). I take courage in the One who knows my weaknesses because he took them upon himself (Hebrews). I throw myself at the foot of the cross and have confidence (Hebrews 4:16) because of the complete love, blood, and sacrifice of my Savior. He is faithful and just to forgive us (1 John 1:9). I used to edit my prayers, asking God for help on my quest to become a better person. “God, help me love her.” I’ve since learned to quickly and violently cast off my insufficient coverings for the all-sufficient covering of the Blood of the Lamb. “God, I hate her. I only want to tear her down with my words. Save me. Change my heart to believe your love is best. Give me the power to love her, because I don’t have it in me.”
The best part of it all is the One who saves me from my lack of love doesn’t leave me in it. There is no state of redemption limbo. He not only forgives us, but transforms us (Philippians 1:6, Colossians 1:11, 2 Corinthians 5:17). My sin may increase, but his grace increases. (Romans 5:20-21) Where I am weak, he has power. (2 Corinthians 12:9). I do not wallow in despair, but look up in joy and confidence as one “forever made perfect… and being made holy. (Hebrews 10:14) This love that binds us “together in perfect unity” (Colossians 3:14) is, after all, a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Love isn’t something we can work into a frenzy if we just squeeze our eyes closed and wish hard enough. It is a gift from the Holy Spirit, this Friend and Power he’s given us “abundantly” (John 14, 15, 16; Romans 5:5; Ephesians 1:13).