One day when I was on my way to site (work), I gave one of the many hitchhikers on the side of the road a lift. I was out of my comfort zone to say the least. I’d never done that, ever. Conventional wisdom told me that it’s not safe to pick up strangers, but I did it anyway.
Once a week, I would take the long drive to work which was a construction site about two and half hours away from home. I’d always see a few hitchhikers looking for a lift, just a few kilometers from where I was working. And I’d always drive right past them. That’s what I’d been taught to do. Don’t pick up strangers. You live in South Africa. Don’t pick up strangers. It’s not safe.
But something was bugging me. Maybe you don’t believe in God, or that he speaks to us, but I do. There was a voice inside that kept saying, “Give those hitchhikers a lift.”
Me: “Uh, but isn’t that dangerous?”
Voice: “What would you do if your friend was standing there and needed a lift?”
Me: “I’d give them a lift of course!”
Voice: “Then you should do likewise for those hitchhikers.”
And at that moment, I knew it was right, and I picked those hitchhikers up.
When Jesus told us to love our neighbors as ourselves, he didn’t mean, people we like and people we know. And yet, we continue to just love those who love us. Another way to describe it is, conditional love.
We tend to give gifts only when it’s expected. We show patience and kindness to those who we think deserve it. We only love the people we like.
If you’re a Christian, you know that’s not Jesus’s version of love. The value that God gave you and me was clear: Jesus’s life. But that value he gave us wasn’t just for us, it was for everyone. Me. You. Your neighbor.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3v16
What are your conditions for loving someone?
In the beginning I didn’t give anyone a lift because of fear. When you give in to fear, you give it the power to control how you live. When John said that perfect love casts out all fear, it was the truth. You can’t have fear and love at the same time. When you truly start to see people as how God sees them, so dearly valued, you’ll treat them differently. You really will.
If you’re a Christian, is it really reasonable to have fear? In light of the eternal life that God gives us, the hope we have in him and his love that cannot be taken away, is it really reasonable to instead rely on fear to guide us?
How important is this?
Jesus talked about this often when people asked him about eternal life. Loving others is a big deal for God. He put it together with the greatest commandment:
“And he [Jesus] said to him [a lawyer], You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22v37-39
There’s no way to misinterpret this. To be sure, Jesus even used the story of the Samaritan helping a Jew. (Samaritans and Jews didn’t get along at all by the way). How many of us have treated someone as well as that Samaritan, our neighbor?
Imagine if we loved people, not based on what we think they deserve, but by how God values them?
Make it real
What if we actually believed that Jesus loves you and me, and that person next to you?
Some of us, I’m sure, would wish that God would do something amazing in their life. Try loving people. Unconditionally. You might be surprised when you do something that actually requires more than your own strength or ability.
Or don’t. Jesus doesn’t love you any less. But wouldn’t you want your relationship with him to be as genuine as can be? If you really read and believe what the Bible says, you’ll know that love is really important. And part of loving God is loving those he loves.
But don’t just love others with any kind of love. Love them the way it was meant to be: unconditionally.