Many years ago if you had asked me what my favorite movie of all time was, I would have said Love Story with Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal. It was a touching story of two people who fall in love, but their life together is tragically cut short when they learn that Jenny (played by MacGraw) has leukemia and will soon die. The famous line from the movie is “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”
This week I’ve been thinking about what love means. Not romantic love as portrayed in this movie, but agape love, the kind of love that Christ calls us to have for our neighbors and even our enemies. The thought occurred to me that this kind of love means never having to hear “I’m sorry.” Jesus said that we should love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Matthew 5:44. He did not say we could first wait for our enemies to say they are sorry for the wrongs they have done before we love and pray for them.
Peter, in his first letter to the Christians scattered among various provinces, wrote: “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8 (NIV). Proverbs 10:12 (NIV) says, “Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.” Love covers over sins because it forgives without having to first hear an apology. Love puts aside anger and hatred, and forgives.
As humans, this is a difficult task. As Christians, it is essential, but no less challenging. We deal every day with non-believers who do not know anything about agape love. Forgiveness is not the first thing on their mind and love of enemies is not the most important thing in their hearts. Asking for forgiveness — saying they are sorry for the hurts they have caused, the mean things they have said, the lies they have told — is not in their nature. But if we, as Christians, do not forgive them anyway, love them anyway, pray for them anyway, how will they ever know agape love? If we refuse to forgive, to love, without having to hear “I’m sorry” then they will not see Christ in us.
We love because He first loved us. We forgive because He first forgave us. Being loved and forgiven by God is the best feeling in the whole world. We should share that feeling with others by loving them, and forgiving them, without having to hear “I’m sorry.” Jesus did not wait for those around Him as He hung on the cross to say “I’m sorry” before He asked His Father in Heaven to forgive them. And what was the reason He asked that they be forgiven? Because they did not know what they were doing. Luke 23:34.
Often those who hurt us don’t really know what they are doing. They have been deceived by a world that teaches selfishness and self-preservation above all else. Especially if someone does not know God, they have nothing to rely on but themselves and often the hurtful things they do or say are just a way of protecting themselves in a bitter and difficult world. It is up to us as Christians to show them love and forgiveness, and trust in God to love and forgive us, and to take care of the outcome of the situation.
My son introduced me to the Christian band Skillet. One of my favorite songs of theirs is “Forgiven.” It is a reminder that I, too, have sinned. I have not always shown love and forgiveness. I have strayed from God. And yet, I am forgiven. One of my favorite parts of the song is:
All the promises and lies
All the times I compromise
All the times you were denied
You have forgiven
Time and time again, God has forgiven each of us and has loved us. It is the greatest love story ever told, and it’s not fiction. Shouldn’t we offer that same love and forgiveness to others? Shouldn’t we share the story of God’s love with those around us? Divine love means never having to hear “I’m sorry.” As Christ dwells in us, He gives us the power to show His Divine Love to those around us as the love story continues for the furtherance of His Kingdom.