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HEBREWS 13:1-3

Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. 2 Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. 3 Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.

(New International Version)

So, yeah, Jesus said: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35) And I’m thinking: “Wow, this Christianity business is pretty cool… I mean, look, all we gotta do is love one another, like Jesus loved us… I mean, how hard can that be? Right?

So, here in the book of Hebrews, Chapter 13, we read, “Let love of the brethren continue.”  And I’ve got to tell you that, after several years of walking in the Way – this pathway we call the Christian way of life – it has been my experience that THIS has got to be the toughest command in all the Bible.  “Love one another.”  “Let love of the brethren continue.”  Maybe, maybe it wouldn’t be so hard if all my brothers and sisters in Christ were “lovable” – but, they’re not!  A few are; those who love me; the one’s I get along with; the ones whose personalities are compatible with mine; those with whom I see eye-to-eye – who share my viewpoint, my understanding of the scripture, my personal convictions; those who seem to appreciate what I have to offer; those who love me.

But, what about all the rest?  What about those whose personalities just rub me wrong?  What about those who don’t see things just the way I do and who, perhaps even, take me to task on some of my approaches to the scripture?  What about those who don’t particularly care about my contributions to the body of Christ or what I’m trying to do to make this old world a better place, or to make a difference for eternity?  What about those who are prone to want to use me, or even abuse me for their personal purposes?  What about those who, despite my efforts to love them, make it pretty obvious that they don’t particularly love me back?  What about all of them?  The majority, perhaps, of my brothers and sisters in Christ? Hummmmm…

How do you love somebody who doesn’t love you, and who doesn’t want to be loved by you? How do you love someone who just wants to use you; maybe even, wants to hurt you?

I’ve got to confess, I don’t always…  I don’t always “love” people the way I know I’m supposed to.  I get prideful; I get resentful; I get defensive; and sometimes I can become deliberately offensive.  I don’t always take the high road and love like Jesus loved.  That’s the command, isn’t it?  Didn’t Jesus say, “love one another as I have loved you”?  And how did Jesus love?  He loved through the sin, through the iniquity, through the pride, through the rebellion He saw in people.  He loved despite the obnoxious behavior He endured from people.  He loved to the point of wrapping a towel around His waist, getting down on His hands and knees, and washing people’s dirty old feet.  He loved to the point of being crowned with thorns, mocked, ridiculed, spit upon and beaten.  He loved even though, while innocent, peopled brought false accusations against Him and trumped up false charges to condemn Him.  He loved to the point of enduring a cruel and merciless flogging by a Roman soldier.  He loved to the point of a cross!

That’s how Jesus has chosen to love you and me!  And, yes, it is a choice.  Love is always a choice.  We are tempted to simply react, when people treat us wrong.  We are very reactionary, sometimes.  When people slight us, or humiliate us, or use us, or abuse us we want to strike back!  There are times when I have chosen to “strike back.” Or, if not strike back, just write that person off as not being worthy of my time, my consideration, or my fellowship.

Am I saying that we have to allow the narcissist among us to continue to walk all over us.  No, I’m not saying that at all.  There are times when, for our own emotional and spiritual health and wellbeing, we have to love from a distance.  We can’t take every single person into our bosom and hold them close as though they were the most important person in our life.  Relationships come in degrees, don’t they – we all know that, or should know that.

You know, the Apostle Paul said to the Corinthians:  But to the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord, that the wife should not leave her husband (but if she does leave, she must remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not divorce his wife.” (I Corinthians 7:10-11)

So, yes, the Bible recognizes that sometimes even Christian couples who are married simply cannot live together.  Some people’s narcissistic tendencies preclude them ever having healthy, intimate relationships.  But this is not an excuse for either the Christian husband, or the Christian wife, to get a divorce and then run off and marry someone else.  While they may not be able to live together, there is always hope that people will change, that they will allow the Holy Spirit, who dwells within them, to grow them up in the Lord; to spiritually mature them to the point where they can be reconciled to one another.  We must leave room for God to work in people’s hearts and lives.

Now, if this is good advice for Christian married couples, is it not also good advice for brothers and sisters in Christ in general?  You and I may never be “bosom buddies,” and we may even be better off just learning to love one another from a distance; but that doesn’t mean we should give up on one another, or write one another off as being deplorable and irredeemable.  We don’t have to be mean to one another.  We don’t have to deliberately slight one another, or treat one another with contempt.  We can chose to love one another as Jesus has loved us.  We can pray for one another.  We can recognize the good in one another and the good that we are each trying to accomplish for the Lord.  We can offer our encouragement, rather than showing our disdain for one another.  Furthermore, if we see that a brother or sister is in need, even if we don’t particularly get along with them, we can move to meet that need and see to it that they are taken care of in their time of need.  These are all example of choices.  Making the choice to love, like Jesus made the choice to love us; even though it cost Him everything that He had to offer.

Well, the Hebrew writer give a couple of examples of how and why Christians should take care of one another.  First He says: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:2).  An interesting verse.  And he’s not talking about going out and rounding up every homeless person you can find on the street and bringing them home with you.  Remember, he’s talking about loving the brethren, fellow Christians.  Christians need to look out for one another’s needs; even when we may not know one another at all.  Back in Bible days, there was not a Motel 6 on every corner; although there was the occasional inn.  But, when people traveled, they often made arrangements to stay in one another’s homes – as when the Apostle Paul and his traveling companions stayed in the homes of various people during their mission journeys.

And, given that in the times in which the Book of Hebrews was written, many Christian families had been displaced and had lost their homes due to persecutions against the church, it was even more vital that Christians find ways to help ensure the safety and wellbeing of one another.

The Hebrew writer even says that, on occasion, when Christian families have done that, when they have taken in other people and families that they didn’t even know, they were, actually, hosting angels – wow!

And, again, because of persecutions against the Christians, not only had many lost their homes and been displaced, but many others had been thrown into prison for their faith.  And so, the Hebrews writer says, “Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body.” (Hebrews 13:3)

Again, he’s not talking about prisoners in general; rather, he’s talking about loving the brethren.  He’s talking about brothers and sisters in Christ who had been thrown in jail because of their faith in Christ.  Sooooo, what are going to do?  Are you going to just forget about them, ignore them, not risk being associated with them?  I mean, what if you end up being thrown in prison, too?  The Hebrew writer says is saying, “hey, consider yourself already a prisoner, just like them, and do for them what you would want them to do for you if it was you sitting in jail for having offended the Roman authorities.”

Now that’s loving the brethren.  It kind of puts all my prideful pettiness to shame.  I’ve got to do better!!!

Oh Lord, my God, You who are the only true and living God, the One described in scripture as the whole, the complete, the very essence of “love,” how is it that You call me, a weak and feeble being, to love the way You love, the way Jesus the Son taught us to love through His ministry here upon the earth? Lord, could it be that the only way I will ever actually learn to become more and more like You is for me to learn to love more and more like You do? I need help here, oh God.  I need your Holy Spirit to move mightily within me and produce within my heart and life all the fruit of the Spirit—the first and foremost being “love.”  I confess that I rarely love the way You call me to love and that I need forgiveness in that area of my life. Please, Lord, forgive my pride, my ego, my self-centered nature and help me be like Jesus. Help me love the way He loves. And even when I don’t want to love, I ask that you continue to stoke the flames of love down deep in my heart and help me to want to want to love!  I know from Your holy written word that I cannot do that in and of myself, by my own strength, of by my own force of will… I need Your Spirit living and moving within me to accomplish that. So, thank You for Your indwelling Spirit. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Thank you for the little evidences of a growing love that You’ve already put in my heart. Please fan the flames so that I can, indeed, authentically love like You do… the way You are calling me to love. By the grace and mediation of my loving Savior I pray… thank You, and Amen!

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