How Distinct is Christian Love? (Renovation of the Heart Chapter 10)

Christianity would be easy if no one ever rejected us. It would be simple if we were not verbally and socially attacked by others. Christianity would not be difficult if people did not become hostile, slanderous, or rude. But there is no such world.
Our transformation is a constant give and take between what is happening inside and what is happening around us. Willard turns his attention to the social aspects of our inner life. He focuses on the ways in which our social life deforms us. We all will face rejection, attacks, and distancing from other people. Unfortunately, we will also use those three things on other people.
But, if we are going to grow in Christ, our transformation must change us socially. We all must find ways to deal with the difficulties that inevitably come as we relate to others. For the Christian that means we have to find ways to love everyone.
Love must be the dominate factor in our relationships. But it is not enough to generically say, ‘I love other people.’ We have to stop and consider what it means to love each other. Willard uses Romans 12 to explain what it looks like to love others. Willard lists 22 qualities that spring from love in Romans 12:9-21 and says this should be the way the church relates to each other:
1. Love must be real, not fake or pretend.
2. Love must hate evil
3. Love must cling to the good.
4. Love must show devotion like family.
5. Love gives honor to each other.
6. Love serves God together with diligence.
7. Love rejoices in hope.
8. Love is patient.
9. Love is devoted to prayer
10. Love contributes to the needs of other Christians.
11. Love seeks to be hospitable.
12. Love blesses those who curse them.
13. Love relates to others (rejoices with those who rejoice, weeps with those who weep).
14. Love seeks to live in harmony with each other.
15. Love produces humility toward one another.
16. Love does see itself as wise.
17. Love will not repay evil with evil.
18. Love considers what is right.
19. Love is at peace with others.
20. Love doesn’t take revenge
21. Love provides for others, even an enemy.
22. Love overwhelms evil with good.

People are going to attack us, they will withdraw from us, and they will reject us. And many of the characteristics of love mentioned above focus on reacting to rejection, attacks, and distancing. The answer to rejection is not to strike back with rejection. We are not to repay evil with evil. The answer to an attack is not to attack back. We are not to seek revenge. The answer to distancing is not to quit on others. We must be devoted to others.
Christian love is distinct because it reaches out to other people regardless of appearance or performance (our usual criteria for love) and sees them as valued individuals. Christ’s love transforms our perception of others and allows us to place value on them. We can love in the same manner Christ loved. After explaining Christ’s sacrificial love in I John 4:10, John says: “If God so loved us, so we ought to love others.”

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