Cold Love

Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 

Matthew 24:12-13

Jesus warns us that in the end it will be easy for our love to grow cold. When He told the Parable of the Wheat and the Weeds (Matthew 13:24-30), He made clear that both the kingdom of darkness and the Kingdom of God will grow together in the world. Good will increase as well as evil. Things will progressively get better and worse at the same time.

As evil in the world grows, things that are clearly wrong will be called right. Embracing sin will be the norm. Those who try to be “liked” in this culture will inevitably compromise truth for the sake of gaining favor with people. And it will be the norm to only love those who are on “your side.” Those who align with one’s ideology will be loved and those who do not will be hated.

In this environment, it is easy for our love for people to grow cold. But Jesus calls us to keep loving, even our perceived “enemy.” Or maybe we should especially love our perceived enemy. This is what sets apart the love of Jesus from what the world calls love. (I say “perceived enemy” because Ephesians 6:12 makes clear that people are not our real enemy. We are in a bigger war against a real enemy that is not flesh and blood.)

But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you…

If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that…

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Luke 6:27-28, 32-33, 36

Part of following Jesus in this world is loving people who are very different than us, who disagree with us, and yes, even those who hate Christians. Loving others is about what is happening in our heart and mind when we show acts of love toward people. Some people will receive our loving actions but not everyone will. Sometimes our loving actions will actually be seen as offensive. But our standard of love is Jesus, not people’s response.

When I love my kids, sometimes they receive it as love and sometimes they don’t like it. Telling my kids the truth and setting certain boundaries (like bedtime or limiting electronics or certain movies) doesn’t always feel like love to them, but it is the most loving thing I can do as a parent. Me loving them isn’t based off of their reaction to my love. It’s not based on whether they understand that this is loving act. My love is not based on their standards but on Jesus, our ultimate standard of love.

The same is true when we love our perceived enemies. We must love people, but sometimes that love won’t be received. And that’s okay! Keep loving! Jesus loved us perfectly. He is perfect love. Yet, so many have rejected His love instead of receiving it. This is part of the deception of the real enemy and the fallenness of our world. We shouldn’t be surprised by it.

Pastor Danny Silk says it this way in his book Keep Your Love On:

“Yes, it’s vulnerable and scary to keep your love on toward someone who has become a perceived threat—you cannot guarantee what he or she is going to do. But you can guarantee your own choice. And you can always choose connection.” 

Danny Silk

Let’s fight to keep our love on. Let’s work to not let our love for people grow cold.

Offensive Jesus

“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? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Matthew 5:43-48

Jesus was always saying offensive things like this. The culture of His day, not unlike our own, operated on an “in-group” and “out-group” mentality. You were to be loyal and loving to “your” people. But you had no obligation to care about the out-group, your enemies that didn’t earn their way into the in-group.

It is in the midst of this cultural climate that Jesus blows it all up. He says just about the most offensive thing one could say. He tells the crowds to not only love their in-group but to love their enemy. This was scandalous! It still is!

Sometimes we don’t understand how offensive Jesus really is until we put it in the context of our own culture.

To the progressives: Jesus isn’t speaking to the crowd and saying, “See, this is why we shouldn’t go to war. We should love our enemy.” No. Jesus was speaking to a crowd of oppressed Jewish people and He was telling them to love the Romans–their violent oppressors. In other words, Jesus was speaking to a crowd full of undocumented immigrants at the border and He was saying, “You need to love Trump! If you don’t love him, you’re no better than he is.”

To the conservatives: Jesus isn’t speaking to a crowd and saying, “You should learn to love the Chinese even though they are communists.” No. Jesus was speaking to the pro-life rally and saying, “You need to love the feminist who flaunts her many abortions as badges of honor. If you don’t love her, you’re no better than she is.”

Whether you are a progressive or a conservative or somewhere in-between, can you feel how offensive this feels? This is Jesus. He was not always easy to be around. His words were not always comforting. He offended. He hurt feelings. He wasn’t always trying to liberate the oppressed from their external oppression, but instead was often trying to free people from sin. He was trying to liberate people from the internal oppression of hatred and bitterness. He wasn’t always trying to enforce external morality, but instead was often inviting people into internal transformation.

Who do you hate? Who can’t you stand? That’s the very person Jesus is commanding you to love. Loving our “in-group” isn’t enough if we are followers of Jesus. We’re called to love our enemy. We’re called to love our enemy until we can see them, not as an enemy, but as a person created in the image of God…a person for whom Jesus died.