It's not normal to love those who are cruel and hateful. It's not natural to love those who murder and destroy. There's nothing normal or natural about that kind of love. In fact, it's downright inappropriate. It isn't appropriate because it isn't proper or fitting for the circumstances. There's no way around it, loving our enemies is an abnormal, unnatural and inappropriate human response.
And that's exactly why love is the distinguishing fruit of righteousness in those who have been redeemed. Love is the fruit of righteousness that sets us apart from the world. It's a distinction that doesn't come with a price tag or any demand for cultural propriety, because it's a distinction that can't be purchased with money or won by behavior. We only undermine the very gospel we proclaim when we uphold anything other than love as our mark of distinction. Anything other than love becomes a distinction that doesn't require rescuing from a Sovereign God who is love.
"Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love." I John 4:7-8
We don't distinguish ourselves from the world by the modesty of our homes, our clothes or our actions. How is it a distinction when there are unregenerate hearts in every nation that bear modest tags that are measured and priced? Those tags don't distinguish the Redeemed. What distinguishes the Redeemed from the world is love. Love that doesn't just extend to those who are good and innocent and act with kind affection, but radical love that is offered to those who are wicked and guilty and act with cruel intention. Radical love that desires the best for all souls. Radical love that prays for their redemption, that pleads for their rescue. Radical love that desires they find forgiveness.
From Christ alone flows love that's wide enough to extend to the hungry soul who bites the hand that feeds it. From Christ alone flows love that's deep enough to extend to the soul who curses the one who blesses it. The love that courses through the veins of the Redeemed isn't the love of the world that's meritoriously tied to those who deserve it. No. It's an unconditional love that's perfectly designed for those who don't deserve it because it's miraculously tied to the heart of the One Who is love.
I want a spiritually healthy heart that pumps God's love passionately through my veins. I don't want my love to be normal, natural and appropriate. I want it to be supernatural. I want it to flow from a heart that beats fervently over the redemption of its own guilty soul. I want it to flow from a heart that beats for the One Who has made me a debtor of mercy alone.
Wickedness has always been a part of this fallen and broken world. The evil that dwells in the heart of man has never remained silent in its power to stun. All of creation is groaning from the fallout of sin as it waits for full redemption. And as we bow at the Cross with eyes fixed on our Suffering Savior, we groan inwardly. As we bow at the Cross we gain a reflection of the true nature of ourselves apart from the sacrifice of our Righteous One, a reflection that gives sight to our own ranking among the unworthy and undeserving. And with eyes fixed on Christ, we are overwhelmed with thanksgiving that we now have the blessed privilege to go boldly to the throne of our Father! And we love others because He first loved us.
John Newton was a Cross-dweller who was given a true reflection of his soul. He was consumed with Christ, and he continually pointed attention to Him. I want to be a Cross-dweller. I want a reflection of myself that bows my knee in praise that I've been forgiven. I want a reflection that drives me to love. A reflection that drives me to love abnormally, unnaturally, and inappropriately.
"Dear friend, wickedness prevails and increases in our city to a dreadful degree! Our streets are filled with the sons of Belial who neither fear God nor regard man. I wish my heart was more affected with what my eyes see and my ears hear every day. I am often ready to fear lest the Lord should show His displeasure in some dreadful way. But surely, if He were strict to mark all that is amiss—I myself would tremble! Oh, were He to plead against me—I could not answer Him one word.
Alas! my dear friend, you know not what a poor, unprofitable, unfaithful creature I am. If you knew the evils which I feel within and the snares and difficulties which beset me from without—you would pity me indeed. So much forgiven—yet so little love to Jesus. So many mercies—yet so few returns. Such great privileges—yet a life lived so sadly below them. Indwelling sin presses me downwards; when I would do good, evil is present with me. I can attempt nothing that is not debased, polluted and spoiled by my depraved nature. My sins of omission are innumerable. In a word, there is much darkness in my understanding, much perverseness in my will, much disorder in my affections, much folly and madness in my imagination. In short, I am a riddle to myself—a heap of inconsistency!
But, 'We have an Advocate with the Father.' And here my hope revives! Though wretched in myself—I am complete in Him! He is my wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption. On this "Rock" I build—for time and eternity!" John Newton; 1786