One of the challenges we face when we use the word love is that so often we mean it in the sense of ‘affection’. We might love our pets, we might love a particular food or sport, or piece of music. This type of love is associated with pleasure, warm feelings – affection. No wonder then when it comes to the question of loving particular people, people that we don’t find it easy to feel any affection for, that the word love seems to much of a challenge for us.
In the scriptures however the word love is less often associated with affection but more often associated with a commitment, a commitment to ‘keep on loving’ regardless of the particular circumstances we find ourselves in. It’s a commitment, indeed a stubborn unwavering commitment, to the well being of the other. Think of the commitment of one spouse to the other even when one of them becomes ill or disabled – perhaps this comes closest to the type of love Jesus asks of us in our gospel today. Put simply – Jesus asks to love our neighbor – not to necessarily like our neighbor….
Or course its important to remember that Jesus is not asking anything of us that we haven’t first received from Him. Jesus will not stop loving us – even when we do the wrong thing. No, He won’t give up on us – nor then should we give up in our efforts to love our neighbor, regardless of the challenges this asks of us.