We are instructed by Christ to love our neighbors as ourselves, and even to love our enemies. There are always individuals who come into our lives that we find difficult to like, let alone love. Given this, how do we follow the commandment of Christ to love everyone?
As Christians we venerate icons of Christ, among them those showing Christ suffering on the cross. When the priest or deacon censes the church during the services he also censes the people, recognizing the image of God in everyone.
If we see everyone as Christ, those who are unlovable, unkind, hurtful, or even evil, can still be loved if we look upon them as Christ crucified. They, like ourselves, are created in the image and likeness of God, yet their sin obscures the image. They, by their fallen nature and unrepentant lives, are Christ crucified. They are loved by God and we are commanded to do the same.
But how? This is where grace comes in! Like Saint Paul, we can say that anything good we do is Christ in us. Loving one’s enemies is perhaps one of the most difficult of Christ’s commandments to keep, but with Christ all things are possible.
As we struggle to love others we must do so with a prayerful heart, asking that the Lord give us the grace needed to truly love others. It is the same grace from God that is needed to forgive those who offend or hurt us. God forgives us, loves us, so we can also forgive and love others. It is all about grace, for if we seek out the aid of the Holy Spirit, all things good can be ours, including holiness.
With love in Christ,