LOVING our brothers and sisters in Christ is something that is an expectation of us; actually more. Loving our brothers and sisters is the sign that the Holy Spirit is in residence in us — that we can love our brother and sister, even if they’ve hurt us.
Love is paradoxical in the Kingdom of God. We must love our enemy, yet we love our brothers and sisters by dealing truthfully, which, at times, is tough love.
Tough love is only appropriate for the person in a relationship with God. An extra level of grace is due the non-Christian. Tough love must, however, always be love. We cannot deal harshly with a brother or sister and call it love.
Two Models of the Same Love
Love Your Enemies
It is apparently easy to love our kind. But there is no heavenly reward for that kind of expected love. God requires us to love our enemies. In other words, we are to love those who are not our brothers and sisters, for our brothers and sisters are apparently easy to love, and that love is expected. Loving our enemies — those who do not love God — as we do — is also easy, given that our enemy does not have the same compulsion to love that we do.
Love Your Brother and Sister
Out of love we find we must communicate truth with our brothers and sisters. Because we are ‘related’ with our brothers and sisters in Christ we have an additional responsibility — to love them so much as to commit our authenticity to them. With our enemy we do not have the right to rebuke them, but with our brothers and sisters we do; out of respect for love. Our brothers and sisters, also, have that responsibility toward us; they are to admonish us out of love. Such a love is ordinary in the Christian life, but I gather the church nowadays doesn’t do so well here. Perhaps the church has always struggled. But this kind of love is important because we should always want to grow — others have a role in our growth as we have a role in theirs. The dualist role of growth is always underpinned by seeking to build the other up.
The Same Love
The same love pervades all our relationships: the grace of forgiving our enemies and the grace of communicating truth with our brothers and sisters. Both manifestations of love are one and the same love; but each is a love of concern at the right level of the relationship we have. We cannot love someone who does not understand love under God with a love that is full of truth. But with our brother and sister we can.
The love of God compels us to love our enemy as well as love our brother and sister.
© 2015 S. J. Wickham.