Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.1 John 4:11
There are countless verses in the bible that talk about loving others (1 John 4:11, Ephesians 4:32, Luke 6:27-28, Matthew 5:44, Galatians 5:14…) Others being anyone from our family, friends, and neighbors to our worst enemies and people we cannot seem to get along with no matter how hard we try. There’s no doubt that God’s will for us on this earth is to reflect His love, mercy, and grace to the ones around us, even if it’s not comfortable or if it’s not something we want to do. The thing – or question, rather – that has been on my mind a lot lately is this: we know that we’re called to love others, but how do we push past the anger of our flesh long enough to do so?
I feel like we all have those people in our lives that challenge us in that way. The people that make it difficult to love and show them grace at times. I know I do. I believe God puts these people in our lives for a reason. Perhaps to teach us a lesson, or to help us learn to love the way that Jesus did. Either way, everything has a purpose, including specific people entering and leaving our lives.
I’m not going to lie to you; there are a few folks (I’m southern, can you tell?) in my life that I have a hard time tolerating, let alone showing grace to or loving. But there’s one person in particular that comes to my mind as I’m typing this. In a way, I suppose you could say that they inspired this blog post. God used them to put it on my heart just how much I lack in this area, and for that, I’m grateful.
This person broke my heart – not once, but multiple times – in the past. And they’re the kind of person you’d least expect to hurt you. If I’m honest, they break my heart all over again every time they try and contact me. They remind me why I have every insecurity that I do and why I find it so hard to let people in or trust myself, but that’s beside the point. Anyway, this person recently did something that hurt my heart, made me angry, and brought back all of those old feelings from the past that I thought I’d put behind me. But as all of those emotions came rising back up to the surface, I suddenly realized how angry I truly was, and, for the first time in my life, I didn’t like that feeling.
My heart was full of rage and anger. I wanted this person to hurt the way that they hurt me. I wanted to yell and scream at them. Whatever I could do to make them see and understand just how bad they made me feel on the inside, not only at that time but every time in the past.
It’s strange saying it, and it’s probably even more peculiar reading it, but I could feel the anger inside of me. It kind of felt like there was a big ball of fire in my chest – that’s the best way I can explain it to you.
I became more and more aware of the things I was feeling and thoughts I was thinking. The Lord brought to my attention just how much negativity and hatred was inside me towards this person, and when He did, I felt rotten about it. I realized just how much against human nature it is to respond to situations like these with love instead of hate.
As human beings, we’re going to feel pain. We’re going to get hurt (physically and emotionally), we’re going to deal with the struggles this life brings, and we’re going to get angry sometimes. It’s in our nature and has been since the very first man and woman disobeyed God in the garden of Eden. However, if we’re sincere, passionate, devout Christians like we claim to be, we have been made new in the image of God. God has created a new character in us and has rid us of our old self.
Which means; a). we are to strive each day to love as He loves and b). we understand that we cannot get fulfillment in anything other than the Lord. If we are always relying on people to keep us secure, happy, and full of love all the time, we will inevitably fail – not only as a person but as a Christian. After all, depending upon God for everything is precisely one of the things he calls us to do.
Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.Proverbs 3:5
The reality is that people make mistakes. People do things they shouldn’t do, whether they’re aware of it at the moment or not. People lie, people cheat, people sin. It’s what we do, what we were born into (before being made new in Christ). Because of all of this and so much more, people hurt other people. Bad people hurt bad people. Bad people hurt good people. In some cases, sometimes good people hurt good people.
We all start off broken, and some of us still are. We are all on a journey, and some have it much worse than others. While that doesn’t give them a right to take it out on those around them, it does explain a whole lot. And to those of us who have been able to find true love in Jesus Christ and be made whole, this means that it is up to us to love those who are still broken. It’s up to us to let the light of the Lord shine so that they can see and know that the pain they’re feeling doesn’t have to be permanent. Just as Christ loved each of us at our worst and weakest points, we must also love those who don’t know what it truly feels like to be loved – even if they have been the cause of our pain.
Not everyone that we show love to will accept it. A lot of people will flat out reject it. Whether it’s because they don’t know how to react, they simply don’t want it, or maybe they don’t agree with our views on life. For whatever reason it may be, we will deal with situations like these, as well as deal with difficult people. However, it is for those that crave love so profoundly that we keep pressing on and shining His marvelous light. It is for the ones who spend each day crying out for someone – anyone – to listen, be there, and care for them. It is for the ones that have a pure heart to do the right thing, even if they don’t know they do – and even if it doesn’t look to us like they do. It is for the ones who have not yet tasted the pure and holy love of Jesus Christ, and when they do, they cannot deny the power and presence of God.
More importantly than any of the above, we never give up on others for the one who never gives upon us. We love because we are called to be like Christ, and Christ loved – even people or in places our flesh wouldn’t dream of loving.
I don’t have all of the answers or all of the solutions, nor do I claim to. All I have is the word of God and His faithful guidance to lead me to live this life in a way that would please Him. And I know that He is calling me to love more – to love deeper. To show more grace and love to others, especially those who I don’t get along with, those who get under my skin, and those who’ve done me wrong.
But how do I do that?
When the Lord first brought this idea into my mind, I was planning to put some tips and tricks on how to love others more. But the truth is, there are none. There is no trick, no remedy, and no secret formula. The only thing that can properly give us the tools, the heart, and the strength to show more love is God himself.
Loving those around us looks different for each person. Maybe it’s a kind and random gesture to a stranger. Perhaps it’s telling someone we love them at a time when they least expect it. Maybe it’s taking time out of our day to do something nice for the very person that gets under our skin, or reaching out to someone anonymously and letting them know that they’re not alone in this crazy thing called life. The possibilities are endless.
What I can tell you for sure is that prayer always makes a difference. Sometimes I pray for that one person that I can’t stop feeling mad at. I pray that they would have a good day, that God would watch over them, or that He would open my eyes and heart to see something that I might not be able to see when I’m so angry. If you’ve got anger in your heart towards someone today, I strongly encourage you to pray, even if it’s just a general prayer. Especially if you’re asking God to lift the hatred off of your heart – because I know from experience that holding a grudge doesn’t hurt anyone but yourself. I’m still figuring that out a little more every day.
Another thing I wholeheartedly encourage is to read God’s word. Don’t just glimpse over it – dive into it. Study it, learn it, sink deep down into it, and see what it says about this topic and so many others. Spending time with the Lord in any way is never a waste.
If you’ve managed to stick with me this far in, I thank you. Thank you for reading, and thank you for taking time out of your day to click on this post, wherever and however you may have found it.
I would love to know, what does it look like to you to love those who are hardest to love? And do you have any ideas on some things I could write about?
May you have a blessed day or night wherever you are, and may you never forget just how much you are loved.
Jesus Loves You