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. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40)
Can you imagine a person who does nothing wrong or nothing right? Imagine a person who never smiles or frowns; someone who never criticizes you or encourages you. The truth be told, such a person doesn’t exist, but if they did, you wouldn’t want to be around them. They would be lifeless and without joy.
Often, if we’re not careful, we can slip into habits of thinking that are related to this. We can refrain from sin and yet at the same time do nothing positive and encouraging for the people in our lives. It’s easy to reason that we’ve obeyed God if we’ve simply refrained from disobeying Him, as if the whole purpose of obedience was simply to not do certain things.
What would God think of a person who never used His name in vain, but also never gave Him praise, thanksgiving, and adoration? What would you think of a person who never took anything from you, but never gave you anything either: no encouragement, no conversation, no help when you needed it? You’d probably think they didn’t like you very much.
When Jesus summarized the Ten Commandments in terms of loving God and neighbor, He implied that obedience is active. Obedience is something we do and say for the good of others. To love someone is far more than to refrain from stealing, killing, or lying to them. This is true of everyone in our lives: children, spouses, friends, and even enemies. We are called to actively do good for them and encourage them, not simply to avoid discouraging them.
I always marvel that on the night of His crucifixion, Jesus, after commanding His disciples to love one another, got down on His hands and knees and washed their feet. We see the love and purity of Christ even clearer when we realize that one of His disciples at that very moment was in the process of betraying Him for 30 pieces of silver.
If Jesus calls us to love our enemies, how much more does He call us to love fellow believers. In fact, this was the very virtue He told us that the unbelieving world would see and identify with His followers (John 13:35). Consider the people in your life today. Who can you call or send a quick letter of encouragement? How can you actively love them? You will find as you develop this habit of actively loving, it provides far more joy and renewal than merely refraining from evil.
As hard as it is to love some people, look to Christ’s example again and again. Even after washing the feet of His betrayer and those who would abandon Him, He willing laid down His life for you and me.