I have been contemplating the way I love (or rather fail to love).
My love is conditional and imperfect. I love those who love me back, and I do good to those who do good to me. My love makes much of myself, rather than Christ.
In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus tells his disciples how to love: “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 someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to 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. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked” (Luke 6:26-36).
When we love like Christ—when we die to ourselves and love unconditionally—we magnify the gospel. Why? Agape, or unconditional, love is the very essence of the gospel: “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10).
We must not attempt to love unconditionally in our own strength. Rather, we need pursue the Lord, for He alone can bear fruit. Agape love is a natural consequence—not precursor—of an intimate and growing relationship with Christ. Let us thus seek Christ and trust Him to perfect our imperfect love for His glory!