By Basilea Schlink
The greatest thing of all-in time and in eternity-is love. That is why there is no greater guilt than the sin against love. We were created in the image of God, who is Love, and after the fall we were redeemed to love through our Lord Jesus Christ. Nothing pierces God's heart more deeply than our not reflecting His image of love. Yes, the Apostle Paul states in 1 Corinthians 13 that we are nothing and that our supposedly loving deeds like "giving away all we have" or "delivering our bodies to be burned" are also nothing. All our words and actions, our whole being, have to be filled with love; otherwise, no matter what we do, we will constantly become guilty towards others.
What does unlovingness include? It is passing by one's neighbour's needs and gentle requests; it is the beginning of unmercifulness. We are not really interested in others; we are not merciful to them; we do not sympathize with them. We cannot rejoice with our neighbours and we cannot cry with them. We do not spoil them with our love, we are not kind to them when they are overlooked or humiliated. Sometimes our forgetfulness, which we try to excuse by saying that we had so much to do, is nothing but our great unwillingness to love others. But even when we seem to be working for others and busily helping them, we may actually only be trying to satisfy our own egos. Then we do not hear the Holy Spirit, when He quietly admonishes us; and when it is really important, when others really need our help, we can be very unloving.
There are not enough words to express all the damage unlovingness can do. Without realizing it, we can drive sad and discouraged people into despair, we can crush their souls by taking away their last hope. And yet we think that we have not done anything wicked, we were "just a bit unloving". But if we try to make this sin of unlovingness seem harmless, we are deceiving ourselves. We have not seen our behaviour in Jesus' light and heard what He has to say about it. That is the only thing that matters and we will be judged accordingly one day. One of the most amazing words of judgment that Jesus spoke, that hits us to the core, was directed at the unloving, who pass by the needs of others, "Depart from me, you cursed!" (Matt. 25: 41). Only if we have been "shaken up" by these words, will we no longer be able to persevere blindly in the sin of unlovingness.
Because it is so easy for us to deceive ourselves through self-righteousness, we ought to yearn to see our words and actions towards our neighbours in the light of God. He has to show us our unlovingness so that we will fight against it. At the end of our life we will be judged according to love. Then it will be of no avail to prove that we have not committed any coarse sins such as betrayal, blasphemy or slander. For the Holy Scriptures include this sin of unlovingness in its list of serious sins (Rom. 1: 31; 2 Tim. 3: 3). And when Jesus pronounces His devastating verdict, "Depart from me, you cursed", it means "into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matt. 25: 41).
Whoever does not want God to pass this sentence on him has to get to the bottom of his unlovingness in order to deal with it. The root of unlovingness is self-love. We love ourselves so much, and are so involved in ourselves, that we do not have any interest or time left over for others. Why do we love ourselves so much? Because we are separated from God, the eternal Love. "By this we know we love the children of God, when we love God" (1 John 5: 2). We do not love God; that is the real reason for our sin of unlovingness.
That is the first thing that we must recognize: our relationship to God is not in order. We have not given Him our first love; we are not at one with Him. That is why love cannot stream forth from our hearts to others. Instead we are indifferent, or what is even worse, harsh to everyone or to certain people. We are living apart from Jesus, ignoring His commandment to love others.
This is where we have to begin to repent. We must ask for a repentant heart, because we do not love God and our neighbour. God, who has promised to answer earnest prayer, will let us repent of our sin against the first commandment, not loving God above all things and our neighbour as ourselves. If we come to Jesus' cross with a repentant heart, we will hear His words, "It is finished!", "Fear not, for I have redeemed you!" He has also redeemed us from our unlovingness so that we can love. Yes, these words, "It is finished", have opened a new fount; His love will flow into us through His precious blood.
Love has been purchased for us. Whoever asks for it will receive it. He will receive eyes to see the needs and sufferings of others, hands which do good deeds, and above all a heart that is on fire and overflows with love. Could there be any other prayer which Jesus would rather answer than the prayer for love? Scripture says that it is the greatest of all. He has redeemed us so that we may be remade in His image, so that we may bear the image of love, the most beautiful image that man can bear. By loving, we will learn how to love. Then we will receive grace at the end of our life, when we have to appear before the judgment seat of Christ. Instead of hearing the devastating words, "Depart from me, you cursed", we will hear the words of grace, "Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom!" (Matt. 25: 34).
O Jesus, since You are perfect Love, I will ask You:
Do not tolerate anything in me that goes against
love. Help me to hate my unlovingness and grant me
a repentant heart, which will lead to new life.
Grant me eyes to see when I have passed by
others, when I have hurt them. Give me Your light
and show me when I have let others wait in vain for
a loving glance, word or deed. Because You have
shed Your blood to redeem me to love, You must see
Your redemption manifest in my life. I will not give
up, until this change comes to pass in me, that Your
love comes to life in me and flows forth from me. To
the glory of Your name You will accomplish this
and lead me to eternal salvation in Your kingdom.