God calls us to love everyone (even our enemies! See Matthew 5:43-44) . . . but that doesn’t mean He requires us to be BFFs with everyone we meet!
Love is a choice, and sometimes a very hard choice to make, especially when people hurt us or talk badly about us. Ultimately though, it comes down to the fact that God created them, and because HE loves them, so should WE! It says in the Bible: “And this commandment we have from God, that the one who loves God should love his brother also” (1 John 4:21). Love is not a feeling, it is an action. And we have the ability to CHOOSE to love, even when it’s hard.
Parts of the Bible were originally written in Greek, and in Greek, there are several options for the word LOVE. “Agape” is the word God uses to define HIS LOVE for US. It means, “I love you even though….” It could mean “I love you even though… you told that one girl on the bus she had ugly shoes.” Or “I love you, even though you don’t show love to me.” This is an UNCONDITIONAL love, meaning it isn’t earned, but it is given despite what the other person does. Pretty incredible, right? This is the kind of love we should strive to show to others. As Jesus said, “JUST AS I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” (John 13:34)
…But we need a little help in order to do this. It doesn’t always come naturally! Especially when it means showing love to someone who is difficult to like. So, here are 5 steps to loving by faith:
1. Remember how much Jesus loves you.
If we understand how much God loves us, we will be more encouraged to share that love with others. If you had the cure to people dying from a certain disease, wouldn’t you want to share it? Of course! Even if you didn’t like them, it would be cruel to hold it back when you had the power to save them. This is what Jesus did for us: He came to earth, healed people physically and spiritually, died and rose to life – so that THE WHOLE WORLD might know God’s love, forgiveness and eternal life (John 3:16). We have been forgiven, and God’s grace is just as powerful for ANY ONE else at it is for you. Now that we have been given the gift of God’s perfect love and grace, it’s up to us to pass it along and not hold it back!
2. Be upfront and honest with God.
Jesus knows we humans struggle with loving others. Be honest with that struggle! Confess to Him, “God, I’m finding it really hard to love Suzie because of the things she has said or done”. And as we confess to God, He will not only listen to you, but guide you and empower you to do what is right. That’s a promise! (see Philippians 2:13). Plus, Philippians 4:13 encourages us, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!”
3. Surrender the relationship to Him.
After you confess, tell God you don’t want to carry that negativity anymore. Let your heart pour out and leave loving that person in His hands. If that person has really hurt you, ask God to heal all those yucky feelings and replace it with His peace and unfailing love . . . both in your heart, and in theirs. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)
4. Ask Him to teach you how to love like Jesus does.
We don’t have what it takes to love properly, but He does - ‘cause He is perfect! Ask and trust that He will give you the attitude, the words, and the desire to love even those that are hard to like. Pray and ask Him to fill your mouth with loving words and your hands and feet with actions that demonstrate peace and love. Like David wrote in the Psalms, “May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).
5. Always choose love.
Love is a daily decision, sometimes it’s also a moment by moment decision. When this person says or does something unloving, it can be so easy to be mean back. But we must CHOOSE what’s right, despite how we feel. Don’t make revenge or ‘getting even’ your goal – it never ends well. But make LOVE your goal, instead, and God will take care of the rest. This DOESN’T mean you need to trust this person with your feelings, or even spend lots of time with them, if they continue to treat you badly. But it does mean being patient, forgiving and respectful to them.
And who knows, the way you love this person may lead them to Jesus! And take heart Beautiful Daughter of the King of Kings - others will see how you love, and be attracted to it. In turn, they will be interested in knowing why you love, and how you love, even when it’s hard. And that is how we lead others to Jesus!
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”