How much love does it take for you to love someone who has betrayed you? How much love does it take to love someone who had the same opportunities to develop a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, yet they have led a life rebellious to Gods calling?
I know the most important commands in Scripture tell me to "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" Luke 10:27
I would be hard pressed to deny my love for God. After learning all that he does for me and provides for me, I would be crazy to say he doesn't love me. In spite of the fact that I am still a sinner in need of his grace, he loves me. I have no doubt about that. I love him, too, perhaps not to the degree which he expects, but I do love him, and part of my spiritual growth in life is to grow to love him more.
Most of us have difficulty with the second part of the verse, in loving our neighbor as ourselves. I can name countless times when those who I am trying to love have let me down, participated in things which made them so unlovable, and committed acts against me or my loved ones that were meant to result in spiritual harm. Surely God does not expect me to love them.
Let's read from the Bible again."Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them." 1 John 2:9-11
Ouch! God says I have to love you or I am still living in darkness. It is emphasized again by John in these words. "We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him." 1 John 3:14-15
It sure looks like God is going to make our spiritual lives hinge on the love we have for one another. Some would find that hard to believe. Others may choose to not have any part of it. I have difficulty with it too, until I remember one thing. God's love for ME does not require me to be lovable, he loves me the way I am. His love for me is not conditional on the fact that I am sinless, He loves me in spite of my sin.
We must conclude that the way God loves us, is the way we are to love one another. That does not mean God's approval of my sin or stubbornness, it means that he loves me enough to extend his mercy, grace, and forgiveness. That's the same way he wants us to be loving toward each other.
John Oxenham expresses it like this in poetry. "Love ever gives--forgives--outlives. And ever stands with open hands. And while it lives, it gives. For this is love's prerogatives--to give, and give, and give."