“The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?’ (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, “Give me a drink,” you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?’” (The Gospel of John, chapter 4, verses 9 through 12)

God’s love is given to us unconditionally. Sometimes we receive much more than we would seem to deserve. If we realize that and are grateful for it, it will overflow in doing the same for others. Some people, like our family and friends, are easier for us to love than others. But God’s love is a lavish, forgiving and seemingly illogical love. Are you able to love like that? This month, most people gave Valentine’s Day cards and gifts to those they are closest to but not to their enemies. God gives generously to everyone. Is there someone in my life right now from whom I feel distant, who would never make it onto a valentine list? How can I love like God loves? In this time of intense political polarization, when people we find hard to tolerate get “canceled,” let us think about the ways that we can heal the divisions in our lives and pray especially for those we find it most difficult to love.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul wrote this: “Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honour. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.” (Romans, chapter 12, verses 9 through 12)

Not only does God say to love and cherish one another, but to anticipate one another in expressing our love. It is sometimes easy to respond to someone who has already done something kind for me, because I know that person will receive my affection with care. To anticipate another in showing love is to step out and take a chance by being kind regardless of how the other person may respond.

If we are kind to one another, Paul says, it is really God that we are serving at the same time that we are serving the other person. Though the other may reject our care, God will always receive what we give to that person with love and gratitude. 

Love, the Lord tells us, is more than feeling good about someone. It is much deeper than surface emotion. It is a turning of our heart and will to the other in patience and endurance, knowing that the God who loves us without end has asked us to love as he loves.

Conscious that we are unable, on our own, to elicit that kind of love on our own steam, perhaps we can make a beginning in this way. Make a personal habit of regularly asking the God who loves us to be present in our hearts and fill us with his peace.

“‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, “Give me a drink,” you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.’”

Read more stories in the current issue of the Smith Mountain Eagle newspaper. Pick up a copy or subscribe at www.smithmountaineagle.com/subscriber_services to view articles in the print and/or e-edition version.

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