May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all. — 1 Thessalonians 3.12
The truth of Christ is woven into the fabric of relationship. As Christians accept, encourage, edify, and sacrifice for one another the character of Christ is displayed for those inside and outside the Church.
Yet if we were to stop at inclusion of the insider, Christianity would be no different than any other religion or social club. Friendship reaches as far as there is common ground. Business partnerships extend as far as profits. Partisanship stretches as far as implications of ideas. Tolerance only embraces others who are tolerant (there is no cultural tolerance for intolerance).
Christ calls his followers further; “Love your enemies.” Though our sinful hearts want to exclude, Christ presents us with a paradox: if they are your friend, love them; if they are your enemy, love them. Dietrich Bonhoeffer—who ministered not only to his fellow prisoners, but to the Nazi guards who held them—writes:
Spiritual love does not desire but rather serves, it loves an enemy as a brother or sister. It originates neither in the brother or sister nor in the enemy, but in Christ and his word. Self-centered, emotional love can never comprehend spiritual love, for spiritual love is from above. It is something completely strange, new, and incomprehensible to all earthly love.
Love, in the Christian faith, is not based on the recipient’s worthiness nor the giver’s character. Instead Christians look to Christ’s love as example, justification, and strength. Christ becomes the common ground; regardless of whether or not he is mutually held—it is his image stamped onto the hearts of humankind. Christ becomes the greatest benefit; we no longer look to personal gain as the evaluative tool of a relationship.
“Truth and love are two of the most powerful things in the world,” R. Cudworth preached, “and when they both go together they cannot easily be withstood.” The puritan caught a glimpse of the beauty of Christ’s love and it’s potential to transform our world, concluding:
O divine love! The sweet harmony of souls! The source of true happiness! The pure quintessence of heaven! That which reconciles the jarring principles of the world and makes them chime together! That which melt’s men’s hearts into one another!
Let us express this sweet harmonious affection in these jarring times; that so, if it be possible, we may tune the world into better music.