One of the biggest areas I struggle with in my faith, and in life in general, is patience. You can blame it on the fact that I’m a millennial, but I think if we’re all honest… patience is an area we could all work on. One of the most negative impacts lacking patience has had on my life, is my struggle with loving ALL people. Loving people in general is easy – when they’re easy to love… It’s the “difficult” people who make that a bit more… Well… difficult. “Difficult people” come in a bunch of different forms. I’m sure as you’re reading this, you’ve already had a face or two pop into your head and are ready for another good ole fashioned venting session. I could probably take up the better part of a day complaining about things that people do, which is why I’m here writing this. Instead of doing that, I’m going to talk about some ways that Jesus showed us how to love people. Jesus didn’t just spend his time hanging around pleasant and kind people… He sought out the people who needed love the most, and that’s exactly what we’re called to do.
Why should we love?
1 John 4:7-8 “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
1 John 4:19 “We love because he first loved us”
This is the basis of Christianity, right? God loved us so much that he sent his son to die on a cross to save us. There is no greater gesture of love than what Christ did for us. The kicker? He did this while we were still “difficult people.” In fact, He did this BECAUSE we’re difficult people. He died to save us because of his love for us. Jesus never really just told people what to do. He showed people what to do, and He typically did it in a big way. So once we decide to follow Jesus, he asks us to love people like He loves us. By loving people the way Christ loves us, maybe then we start to see people as “children of God” rather than “difficult people.”
Who should we love and how?
Luke 6:27-36 (Love for Enemies) “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”
It’s easy to love people who are easy to love, but Jesus doesn’t want us to stop there. We need to love the people who are the most difficult to love. When we can start to just simply pray for someone, it forces us to stop viewing them as a “difficult person” and remember that they are a whole story. People don’t become difficult just because they thought maybe it would be fun to try living an unhappy life. No, we live in a terribly troubled world that beats people down until they are made difficult. It takes a Christ-like love to dig people out of that, which is exactly why we need to show up and love them the most.
Social media is constantly circling quotes around that suggest the key to happiness is cutting ties with anyone who might make our lives difficult. Sure, that might put a temporary Band-Aid on your life, but it won’t fix anything. We’ll soon be so scarred and bitter that we’ll just be alone and worse off than we were in the first place. Spoiler alert, everyone is going to disappoint you. It seems like we live in a time where relationships are struggling to survive and thrive for many different reasons, but I believe the main reason is that we expect people to be perfect. No one can live up to the expectations we set, except God. When we start to grasp that, it becomes a little bit easier to love people. Jesus doesn’t want us to cut ties with the difficult people. Jesus wants us to seek out the difficult people and love them so much that they can’t see you anymore, but they can only see Him.
Putting our faith into action (James 2:14-17)
Sacrifice a few hours of your time to help someone you normally wouldn’t help. Start small. Journal about it, and keep practicing it until loving others isn’t something you need to “try” anymore, and it’s something you’ve become.