A Greater Love
Updated: May 25, 2021
written by Trace Clevinger
In many areas of life, including your schooling and your career, if you want to accomplish a goal, you can often just work harder until you’ve gained the knowledge you need or until the job is complete. However, I’ve learned that there are some areas of life, specifically in our walks with Jesus, that clearly confront us with the reality that no matter how hard we try, we will simply fall short if we rely on our own abilities and strengths.
This really started hitting home two months after I graduated college, and one month after getting married, when my wife and I joined a community of Christians dedicated to living in a marginalized section of Durham. Our hope was to see transformation and reconciliation through the power of the Gospel and to learn what it looked like to follow Jesus outside the confines of college. Our time there was not pretty – it was messy and harder than we would have ever imagined. We made plenty of mistakes, but in the midst of it all, God revealed to us more how insurmountable His love is and how limited ours was.
Some of our struggles simply came from our living conditions. When we moved into our rental house in July, the house’s air conditioning unit was not working because the copper pipes had been stolen out from under the house. When winter hit, our house became infested by yellow jackets that were getting in through the window. These and other experiences we had were humbling as our head-knowledge of the daily struggles faced by many in our community became experiential knowledge.
As challenging as those things were, we were still able to maintain love for our neighbors. In fact, our love may have even increased as we related more with the challenges they faced. It wasn't until seven months in when our house was robbed that we were truly confronted with the limitations of our ability to love. What made it worse was that our two dogs, a Pit Bull mix and a Chow mix, were inside the house when it happened, meaning it was likely someone who knew us (and our dogs) who had aided in the robbery.
How were we supposed to maintain love for the neighbors who were likely the ones who had stolen from us? We couldn’t. We had reached the end of our ability to love.
That’s when I first started to realize that I couldn’t will myself to “love my enemies”, as Matthew 5 commands. I simply couldn’t fabricate feelings from within myself when I had been unjustly wronged. I found that the obedience to such commands wouldn’t come from my will power or work, but only from the Spirit of the God who had loved His enemies, myself included, so much so that He endured the cross on behalf of the very people who had rejected Him so that we might be reconciled to God. So, look to Jesus, only He is able to love us perfectly, and He promises to give us grace to love others as well.
“Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith,
who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross,
despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”