You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
In her essay Malicious Joy, based on a reflection of Bishop Nikolaj Velimirović, Aunt Melanie writes,
‘Why do Christians not also fortify one another? Why do we not offer a helping hand or an encouraging word? Why are our relationships weaker than those of business partners and gang members? Are we not disciples of the same Christ?’
Yes, I used to feel the same way. I thought to myself, no, I expected, when I finally became a Christian, a disciple of Jesus Christ, that I would find fellowship, encouragement, even love, in the Church. I had heard sung, ‘They'll know we are Christians by our love,’ and I had read the gospels where this idea even originates, in John. What I actually found is exactly what you describe above. I was just as frustrated as you are. Why can't Christians stand up for each other? Isn't that what ‘stand up, stand up for Jesus’ really means? I thought so, but I guess I was wrong.
No, if Christians were even as fraternal and mutually helpful and protective as people in the world are, they would only be fulfilling Christ's word of warning. ‘Even tax-collectors and sinners do that.’
No, Jesus calls us not just to stick up for each other because we are Christians. He expects us to love one another. Yes, that is the foundation, but if He had us stop there He would have created a mere religious community. Instead, He tells us to treat everyone without exception with the same good will, affirmation, encouragement, yes, even love.
That is what is extraordinary about the call of Christ, and that is why so few of us are really disciples. We only follow Him with our eyes, our minds, maybe even, no, especially, with our pocketbooks—anything to excuse us from following Him with our feet. Yet, as I have written elsewhere, ‘love is like the feet,’ and now I say, ‘yes, feet that follow His tread the path of love.’