46 If you love only those who love you, what reward do you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Therefore, just as your heavenly Father is complete in showing love to everyone, so also you must be complete. Matthew 5:46-48, CEB
What does it really mean to be holy?
Love is not an issue of convenience. We’re reminded in these verses that it is easy to get along and go along with people who don’t cause ripples in our lives. I often laugh when people describe acquaintances as ‘nice’. You know, when people say, “He’s a nice guy,” or, “She’s a nice woman.” If you’ve only seen a person in one context, it’s easy for that person to appear nice. It’s not difficult to be nice to people that you have limited interaction with. Everyone seems nice…until they don’t.
We don’t really see the whole of a person until we’ve had a conflict. Until then, we don’t really know what to expect. Until then, it’s easy to love that person. I’ve had countless friendships and other relationships go perfectly well until we had our first conflict. I’ve lost plenty of relationships at the first sign of conflict. That’s when we really have the opportunity to figure out what it means to “love”.
Over time, friendships are hard, any relationship is hard. Marriage is hard. This is because we have plenty of conflict. It’s hard to stay at a job or at a church for a long period of time because, again, we encounter conflict. It’s hard to have the same philosophies or politics or beliefs over time because we experience new and different forms of conflict.
Loving completely has something to do with figuring out what it looks like to face this conflict. It means pushing through the difficulty. Staying when it would be easier to go. Continuing to engage in productive dialogue that seeks a solution to the conflict.
If we can’t do the hard work of seeking a solution, then we have to ask ourselves if we’re really loving enemies or, instead, just being “nice”.