If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. (Luke 6:32 NASB)
In this passage, Jesus was preaching to a multitude of people. They were assembled on a "level place" at the foot of a mountain. There were people from all over the region, from every socioeconomic level, from every faith persuasion. Some were strictly adherent to the law. Some... well, not so much.
There was one theme that Jesus was hammering home. He spent a significant portion of this discourse on the subject. Loving your neighbor is the topic, and it is critical if we are to be an effective witness for Christ. This verse is the first of three examples of what loving your neighbor is not.
To the command to love their neighbor, people were silently thinking, "Look at all the people I love. I love my neighbor." They were quietly tallying the count and feeling pretty good.
Jesus knew that everyone on their tally list also loved them. Ever the Confronter of Falsehood, Jesus confronted that deluded thinking. "There are no extra points for loving the people that love you. Anyone can do that." The overwhelming grace of God is not required to love the people who love us back. That is relatively easy. Jesus was making it very clear that we were not called to easy love only. We are called to HARD love. We are called to love those who are difficult to love.
Certainly we are to love those who love us in return. He was not denigrating that love at all. He was saying that easy love cannot be all the love you show.
Think of the people on your "love tally". Are there those on your list who are hard to love? Are there people on your list who do not love you in return? If not, Jesus would have you make some changes. Easy love is not enough.
Pray today that we will see the most difficult people we encounter as opportunities to love in the name of Jesus, and that seeing our love for the least lovely will demonstrate the love of Christ to those we love the most.