Do you know someone you really don’t like? Maybe they hurt you in the past, or maybe they are arrogant or manipulative or just talk too much. According to Jesus, we’re called to love everyone, right? If you’ve been following this blog for long, then you know the Lord has had me studying love since the first of this year. Every post I’ve written in 2017 has been about love, yet I feel I’ve barely scratched the surface of what God is trying to teach me. The thing is, Jesus didn’t put qualifiers on whom we should love. When we surrender our lives to His Lordship, we give up our right to choose.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34, NIV 84).
In these devotional posts, I’ve shared about loving God, walking in love, loving our church family, loving our spouses and our children, but what I haven’t shared is how to love people you don’t like. Because let’s face it: we just don’t like everybody.
How to Love People You Don’t Like
Jesus encountered this very issue as recorded in Luke 10:25-37. A teacher of the law decided to test Jesus. Jesus had been teaching that all the law and the prophets could be summed up in the commands to love God with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. So Mr. Law Expert piped up with, “And who is my neighbor?’ Jesus responded with the story of the Good Samaritan, a man who came alongside a Jewish fellow who had been robbed and left for dead, showing compassion and caring for the man. A Jewish priest and a Levite had already passed the man by, offering no help. The interesting thing in this story is the history between the Jews and Samaritans.
“It is significant that the person Jesus commended was neither the religious leader nor the lay associate, but a hated foreigner. Jews viewed Samaritans as half-breeds, both physically and spiritually. Samaritans and Jews practiced open hostility, but Jesus asserted that love knows no national boundaries” (The NIV Study Bible (84), 1560),
Jews just didn’t like Samaritans. They thought they were better than Samaritans; even the religious leaders felt this way. Jesus had a way of shaking up everyone’s preconceived ideas of what the law was all about. For instance, He once told His followers that they had been taught to love their neighbor and hate their enemies, but they actually had it all wrong. God intended for them to love their enemies, too.
“If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?” (Matthew 5:45-47).
Friends, Jesus didn’t let us off the hook with just loving the people we like. He said to love everyone. So how? How are we supposed to love people we would rather not even be around? We need to ask ourselves why we don’t like some people in the first place. Maybe they have hurt us, and we haven’t truly forgiven them. Maybe their personality just rubs us the wrong way. Maybe we have experienced their rejection or disapproval in the past, and we fear further disgrace. Whatever the reason, God is showing me that we must choose to love. Love is not a fuzzy, warm feeling. Love is deciding that we will treat someone with respect and honor.
This past Sunday, I sat down in the pew, got out my notebook and pen, and prepared for the sermon. The preacher said, “Turn to 1 John chapter 4.” I think I literally yelled, “Yes!” You see, I have been studying 1 John since the beginning of this year in a Bible study by Kelly Minter entitled What Love Is. I knew right then God had something for me. The preacher began to share a message from 1 John 4:7-19. I want to share a few of those verses and the message I received from the Lord on Sunday.
“No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us his Spirit” (1 John 4:12-13).
Guess what? We can’t love apart from the Spirit of God living in us and making His love complete in us. I don’t have it in me to love some people. When people are rude, disrespectful, or hurt us or someone we love, our human capacity to love them will always fall short of the kind of genuine love God calls us to. We have to surrender our lives to Jesus Christ and allow the Holy Spirit to fill us with His love. Only then can we share that love with someone who has really hurt us. In other words, love is supernatural. It’s a gift of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). Aren’t you glad to know that God doesn’t command us to do something that He doesn’t empower us for? The key is to seek God every day in prayer, worship, and Bible study. Then our hearts and minds will be focused on the Lord and His ways. When we encounter a difficult person, we can cooperate with the Holy Spirit and allow Him to guide our thoughts, words, and actions.
I’m stealing from the pastor now, but this word was the best part of Sunday’s sermon. You know why I have a hard time loving some people? Because I’m afraid of being rejected, disapproved of, talked about. I’m afraid if I try to love them, they won’t love me back. Rejection is a serious issue for me. But God has addressed that issue right here in 1 John.
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18).
Bam! Just like that, the Lord set me straight. Perfect love comes only from God. So if I’m not loving some people because of my fears, then I have not fully allowed God’s love to fill me. Wow. I had to make a little trip to the altar. Right before that verse, John shared that when we live in God and let Him live in us, His love is made complete in us. In other words, if I am living my life surrendered to Jesus, I have no reason to fear people. I am loved, accepted, and approved by the God of the universe!
When we truly know and understand the love God has for us, we will be fearless and (again, I’m stealing from the preacher) we will be free. We will be free to worship without worrying about what others think. We will be free to share the Gospel without fear of rejection. We’ll be free to love all people, regardless of their skin color, their social status, their attitude, their opinions. Why? Because loved people are complete.
“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:17b-19).
Did you get that? Rooted and established in love. Grounded. Complete. God in me and me in Him. Love that surpasses knowledge. We can’t understand why God loves us. We can’t explain it. But we can rest in it. That’s what frees us up to love even the most aggravating person we know.
Who has God brought to your mind today?
Be filled. Be fearless. Be free. Go love.
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