We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:19
We often read this verse to mean that we have the capacity to love another human being because we have first experienced Divine Love. We read it this way: "I can love because He has first loved me." However, it can also mean this: I love this person because God has first loved him/her.
We love another by seeing another person in relation to God, not ourselves. This love is not based on the person's usefulness or significance to me. It is not based on whether I like this person or not. We do not try to fit this person into our own needs and fantasies. Our love is not dependent on the person's attitudes towards me. It is love without "passion", where we see a fellow-human as simply a person made in His image and valued by Him. We do not love perfectly if our love depends on someone’s positive relation to us.
In fact, it is due to our fallen state that we become aware of a person as someone to be acquired and used for profit. We have lost the ability, like a little child, to register another person without attaching the person's meaningfulness or value in relation to our needs.
We need to learn to accept the variety and instability of how others may treat or regard us, whether real or apparent. In this, we follow the example of Christ, who suffered for all. We can offer hope to all, even if we cannot dictate their responses to us.
This is why the Bible has so much to say about loving and offering hospitality to strangers and foreigners, as last weekend's sermon has reminded us. How can you love someone you do not know? Because our love need not be dependent on that knowledge. And this is also one reason why lasting and deep friendships in church community is possible, even if it will always be fraught by human imperfections, disappointments and failures. Even if intentions are pure, circumstances, miscommunication and misunderstandings often tripped us up. We will need, as taught by our Lord, to daily forgive as we are forgiven.
I have summarised some ideas here from the rich writings of church fathers revered in the Orthodox Church, such as Maximus the Confessor. Most of you will not have a chance to read these writings. I trust this short sharing is helpful.