God can love everyone because He knows everyone; and His love for them is not objected-oriented. In other words, God doesn’t love people because of any inherent redeeming value or character trait within them. For example, if He loved me because I give away all my wealth to the poor (and I don’t), then if I stopped giving away my money to the poor then He would have cause to cease loving me. God’s love for us is derived from His nature and not ours. (Trust me when I admit that this is a good trait! If God’s love for us was object-oriented then He would love none of us — ever.) But Jesus said that the second greatest commandment is akin to the first: “You shall love your neighbor [which just so happens to be everyone with whom we come into contact, cf. Luke 10:30-37] as yourself” (Matt. 22:39). If I am to possess the kind of love for people that God holds, how is that going to happen?
"The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise, we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them."
The quote from Merton above comes from his work No Man is an Island, and I think it represents a God-kind of love. Before each of us comes to trust in Christ we are already perfectly loved by God. He does not require that we change who we are as individuals in order to first receive that love. God does not call me to the behaviors and characteristics of Billy Graham or John Wesley or Thomas Aquinas or the apostle Paul. God perfectly loves me, as I am, and longs for me to be the me He created me to be. However, that “me” is also being conformed to the perfect likeness of God’s Son Jesus (Rom. 8:29). The “me” I’m going to be is not yet complete.
I think this is always healthy to keep in mind with regard to everyone else we encounter as well. Let’s consider those with whom we worship Christ each Sunday. The “them” they are going to be is not yet complete. God will also conform them to the image of Christ; they are becoming what they will be, even though what they will be is not yet who they are presently. If you need a moment to grab for the Aleeve, then go and come back for the final paragraph.
I have not yet mastered how to love everyone perfectly, mostly because I have not yet arrived at the final, perfect “me.” Loving people takes hard, very intentional work, and it is just as much a discipline of contemplation as it is a form of activity. Thomas Merton says of Aquinas that there is “in practice no contradiction between contemplation and activity,” and I agree with them both. When we consider who is our “neighbor” — whom we are called to both love and serve — this takes contemplation, introspection, and a determined willingness to act on their behalf; and this labor of love, if you will, must be stubborn to completion. In other words, we cannot give up the effort merely because the person does not reciprocate or appreciate such labor. We must remember that, though God loves everyone perfectly, that love is, largely, underappreciated or outright rejected. Still He loves, stubbornly, graciously. Lord, make us imitators!
This post was written by William W. Birch. For the original post, go to: http://willandgraced.tumblr.com/post/58414919448/loving-everyone-is-impossible
BE A MAN.