There are two kinds of loves we can have for our fellow human beings. The first kind of love can be described as “partial love.” Partial love is the kind of love that shows favor or is partial toward people. It is seen when we love people because they have sort of earned this love from us because of who they are in relation to us, or because of something they have done for us. Partial love loves only those who are lovable, only those who do good to us. Partial love is not wrong, per se. However, partial love is not perfect.
The second kind of love that we can have for our fellow human beings can be described as “perfect love.” Perfect love does not show favor or partiality towards people. Perfect love loves not only those who do good to us, but even those who do nothing good to us. In fact, it loves people who hate us. Perfect love loves people who have no legitimate right to be loved, people who are unlovable and utterly repulsive by disposition. It is in this sense that love is made perfect, that we love not only those who love us and do good to us, but also those who hate us, and would do us harm.
From where do we get these two distinctions in degrees of love? Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, takes the technical love of the law—the kind which advocates love for those who do good to us, but hatred for our enemies—and raises the bar of love higher, setting the bar at perfection.
“You have heard that it has been said, ‘You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, ‘Love your enemies’ . . . For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? . . . You therefore, be perfect, even as your Father who is in Heaven is perfect.” Matthew 5: 43, 44, 46, and 48.
In our love of people, Jesus expects us to show love not only when we are loved, but at all times, and to all people, even to those who hate us. Why should we show this kind of love to people?—Because this is the way God loves, without partiality. He is perfect in his love, making sun and rain fall on all people alike, both good and evil (v.45). Our mandate to be made perfect in our love for people comes from God, whose love toward people is perfect. Not only does God have perfect love, but He is perfect love! (1 John 4:8)
How does one go about cultivating this kind of perfect love though? Perfect love begins by being a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. In this sermon of His, He is addressing His disciples, who have believed on Him, and as a result are children of the Father in Heaven. One may have partial love without being a follower of the Lord Jesus. But one cannot exude perfect love unless they follow the Lord Jesus.
When perfect love is in operation in peoples’ lives, the brokenness in relationships spoken of by Jesus in the preceding verses of Matthew 5 (vv. 21-32), of brother being set against brother, and husbands divorcing wives (or vice versa), will not happen. Instead, perfect love acts, and perfect love prays. Jesus admonishes us to “do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who despitefully use you, and persecute you . . .” (v. 44).
Do you have perfect love for people? Do you pray for, and do good to those who wrong you?
Sometimes we may have warm and fuzzy feelings towards those who merit these emotions from us. And this is not wrong. However, Jesus wants more from us, His disciples. He wants us to have perfect love, like Him. When will you and I have reached perfection in love? Well . . . Until we are able to love people like God loves them, there will always be room to love them more. There will always be room for the perfection of love. Is there evidence that your love, and mine, is being made perfect?
© Kenny Damara, 2014