Loving Others to Jesus

I am concerned about why we love people in our lives.

It seems to me that we Christians tend to love people who are not Christians because we want them to be Christians. On the surface, it sounds like a reasonable purpose. What could we want more than for people to come to a living relationship with Jesus? Unfortunately, it isn’t always this simple.

In his first letter, John writes: …if God loved us like this, we certainly ought to love each other. No one has seen God, ever. But if we love one another, God dwells deeply within us, and his love becomes complete in us—perfect love (MSG)! John reiterates the words and ideas of Jesus that our primary purpose in life is to love.

Here’s my concern about how love and evangelism mix: I’m concerned that we tend to love people so that they will become Christians rather than just loving people. We know that love is the primary means by which people come to Christ; unfortunately, we tend to live in such a way that love is a means to an end rather than a way of life. Certainly, we want our love to lead people to the joy of relationship with Jesus, but it’s a subtle shift from loving people—to loving people so that they will come to Jesus. The first is humble; the second is manipulative.

What happens when people don’t respond to our love the way we want them to? What happens when we love but people don’t open their lives to Christ? Do we love them anyway or do we move on to someone else who we think will be more responsive? If we love because love is what oozes out of us, then we will love regardless of the response. If we love because it’s the means to getting someone to do what we want them to do—however good for them it may be—then we will eventually stop loving. If our love is to be the love of God, what does our attitude communicate about God’s love for us?

Why do we love others? Is it so that they will come to know the love and grace of Jesus or is it because they are important to us? I am continually reminded and prodded by the words of the 16th century Christian mystic and poet, St. John of the Cross: In the evening of life, we will judged on love alone.