32 ‘If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.

33If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. 35But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return.

Like most great literature, the Bible is not given to the use of superfluous words. If a word is repeated four times in three and a half verses, you know the word is important.

Christianity all comes down to this one word. The heart of Scripture and the core of Christian faith is “love.”

Everything is measured by love. If my understanding of a particular passage of the Bible, or doctrine of Christian faith, feels as if it contradicts that deep stream of faithfulness, truth, goodness, well-being, beauty, and light that is love, then it is time to revisit the passage or doctrine and look more deeply.

But, it is not just any love the Bible speaks about. The Christian understanding of love has a particular quality expressed here by Jesus. It is a love that expects to “receive” “nothing” in return. It demands no particular response; it requires no payoff. It is not an investment. It is only love if it is freely given.

This is why the love Jesus modeled is even able to love its “enemies.” My enemies do not give back warm cuddly feelings. Regardless of how they receive my love, I continue to behave towards them in a loving manner.

The love Jesus embodied is not self-serving. It gives simply because it is the nature of love to give. It flows from an unstinting resource that is the power of God at work in our hearts. It seeks no “good” from the object of its loving action.

This is not a love I can manufacture or conjure up myself. This love is a gift; it flows from a power greater than myself. Before anything, the Christian journey a movement towards opening more deeply to this gift of love and living more fully from the love that is my true nature.