Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all thin
After the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia, a Czech was asked whether the Russians were their brothers or their friends. 'I think they must be our brothers', he replied. 'You see, we can choose our friends'.
How do I cope with my brothers when I honestly don't like them? Of course, Christianity isn't primarily about being nice; it is about a just God who, because of the love he has for us, is prepared to go to extraordinary lengths to save us from ourselves, and to give us the kind of life we were created to enjoy. He loves us so much that he would die for us -- the unlovely who are not even his brothers. But the unlovely are not the problem families, the unemployed youth with spiky hair, dressed in black; they are you and me, saying we believe one thing and then conspicuously failing to live up to it.
Of course, I'm nice to patients, I make the coffee after the ward round, I try to avoid the mess gossip sessions. So do many of my colleagues, whatever their beliefs. Indeed, some of them are far nicer people than I am, despite my faith. There will always be some people I don't like, and some of them will be Christians. I would not choose them for my friends, but I still have a commitment especially to them in sharing love. My responsibility is two-fold: to guard against inconsistency in my own affairs, and knowing my own weakness, to accept theirs.
'What is Real?' asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, 'Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?' 'Real isn't how you are made' said the Skin Horse. 'It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real...'
'It doesn't happen all at once. 'You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all because once you are Real, you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand'.
The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams*
Further reading: Jn 13:34-35.
*Reprinted by permission of William Heinemann Ltd.