Christian Love—One Step Beyond (Podcast)
John H. Hampsch, C.M.F.
Just before the Korean War some Communist rebels in a Korean town murdered a young Christian who was a YMCA secretary—an instance of Proverbs 29:10: "Bloodthirsty men seek to kill the upright." At the trial, the father of the slain boy, a minister, asked the judge to spare the life of the young cutthroat leader, and to be permitted to adopt him as his son, to replace the son that was murdered. As a result of this extra measure of forgiving love, the young Communist and all of his living relatives were converted to Christianity.
What is the source of such heroic love? The answer is found in the very command to ...view middle of the document...
. .Pray for those who persecute you. . .If you love only those who love you, what reward will you get?…If you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?" (Matt. 5:40-47). Jesus' words are clearly an invitation—and a mandate—to boost our love potential beyond mediocrity.
The "extra measure" of love is not always easy, but Jesus' demand is uncompromising: "I tell you...love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you...if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back...Love your enemies, do good to them, lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great” (Luke 6:27-35). When your enemy reaches for your head to smash it, you must reach for his heart to melt it. Paul urges the Romans (12:20) with the words from Proverbs: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink...And the Lord will reward you." Great love—the "extra measure"—will bring an extra measure of a great reward: "A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you" (Lk.6:38).
Jesus sheds light on the principle of the "extra measure" in his statement of the so-called Golden Rule, by formulating it in a positive rather than the negative expression that had been used in rabbinic Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism: "In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets" (Matt. 7:12 and Luke 6: 31). A little reflection will reveal that this positive demand is more far-reaching than the negative: "Do not unto others what you would not have them do to you." The negative command requires that we refrain from hurting others, but the positive command requires that we also do good to them, compliment, affirm, encourage and support them, as we would like others to do to us.
In Christ's eyes the glory of the Good Samaritan in the parable was his employment of the "extra measure" principle. Not only did the rescuer's compassion save the life of a Jew, knowing that Jews generally despised Samaritans; he left extra money for the innkeeper to care for the victim, and promised even more money later if necessary. The bounty of his spirit overflowed the narrow boundaries of race and nationality, of class and traditional prejudice (see Col. 3:11).
Mary Magdalene, as mentioned in all four gospels, exercised the "extra measure" of love in anointing Jesus with a most expensive perfume, even breaking the precious alabaster container to expend its total contents on her beloved. The objections of Judas and other shriveled souls present could not understand love's reckless generosity.
Christ's "extra measure" principle stands enshrined in these and similar stories and parables in the pages of God's word. Our task is to enshrine it in our hearts:...