"This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers." I John 3:16
It easy to "love" those far away, those we have little interaction with. We can be patient and kind with those hard-to-love people we run into infrequently. The real test of our love for others is manifested in our day-to-day lives. How do we love those we experience every day? Do we lay our lives down for our spouses, children, parents, neighbors, members of our church community?
Obviously loving is not merely having positive feelings for a person, not merely wishing good upon someone. Dallas Willard says it is acting on behalf of the good of others. Notice in the above verse, John indicates that our love is measured by how well we lay our lives down for our brothers, not our enemies, even though Jesus tells us to love our enemies.
So how are we doing? When we're impatient and annoyed--that's when the real test of love comes. When we're tired and would rather be refreshed than refresh others--do we consider others above ourselves? Choosing to love is a cure for selfishness. Love is a choice because more often than not, we don't want to expend the energy it takes to love others. It is only through the power of the Holy Spirit that we can love consistently. And of course, Jesus is our prime example: he laid down his life for us. And out of love and appreciation for him, we lay our lives down for others.
In the Lord's prayer, when we request our daily bread, we need to ask for the strength and energy to love those we encounter. Otherwise, we'll fail miserably.
"Love begins by taking care of the closest ones - the ones at home."
-- Mother Theresa