Today is the beginning of February....also known as the Love Month. It's a time to show your special someone that you love them or maybe wish that you had a special someone to love. It's a popular month for flowers, chocolate and greeting cards. There's nothing wrong with celebrating the one that you love, but as Christians God tells us to show love to one another always...not just in February. He also tells us to show love to the difficult people in our lives. This is no easy task.
It's easy to love the ones that we feel deserve our love. But what about the ones who have wronged us or caused harm to us in some way? Our desire is to see justice prevail. We can feel justified in treating them harshly or refusing to show them love or kindness in any form. Especially, if like me you rank justice higher than mercy. We want mercy for ourselves but would prefer others to be dealt with according to what we feel they deserve.
I like how 1 Peter 1:22 describes how we are to love. Depending on the translation it tells us to love sincerely, fervently, brotherly, earnestly, and unselfishly. It's not a passive kind of love. It is a messy, sweaty, hard working in the trenches kind of love.
The Message translates it this way, "love one another as if your lives depended on it." When our lives depend on something, we take it seriously and we make sure we do it to the best of our ability. We don't ignore things that our life depends on. We don't treat those things flippantly or carelessly. That's how seriously we are to love one another.
But why are we to love one another with such fervor? Because Christ loved us and gave His life for us. He doesn't say just love those who are nice and lovable. That doesn't really prove our love for Christ. It's love shown to the friend who has betrayed you. It's a kind response to someone's angry rant. It's taking your justice seeking attitude to God and asking Him to help you to not seek your own revenge. Like I said it's no easy task but our obedience to Christ's command to love others is not optional.
Loving others like Jesus loved is costly. It is a self sacrificing love and can only be accomplished through the power of the Holy Spirit. We are not perfect and we will not always love others perfectly. But we must strive to love like Jesus in every situation.
I was reading a lesson on Bible.org the other day and I think the author summed up what it looks like to love like Jesus in the real world. Here's what he said:
"Does loving someone require that I like that person? Does it mean that I must become a close friend with a difficult person? By looking at Jesus’ example, I have to say, “Not necessarily.” While He loved all people, He did not give His time equally to all. He spent the most time with His disciples, but even among the twelve, He was closer to Peter, James, and John. And John is the only one called, “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 13:1, 23).
Jesus didn’t even spend time with His half-brothers when He had the opportunity. He could have gone up to the feast with them (John 7:1-10), which would have meant several days of traveling together. He could have used that time to influence them, since they were not yet believing in Him. But He let them go alone and then He went later by Himself.
Jesus also loved His enemies, the Jewish leaders, but He constantly provoked and confronted them. He instructed His disciples to shake the dust off their feet and move on if people rejected them and their message (Matt. 10:14). Apparently, that was the loving thing to do, since Jesus never would have commanded them not to love their enemies (Matt. 5:44).
Also, since biblical love seeks the highest good for the other person, namely, that he become more like Christ, love sometimes requires confronting the person with his sin or letting him experience the consequences of his sin so that he learns to hate it (Acts 8:18-24; 13:6-12). Love does not enable a person to continue in sinful or irresponsible ways. Love tries to help a person learn to be obedient to God and responsible to “bear his own load” (Gal. 6:5).
I don’t say any of this to give you a cop out from loving difficult people, but rather, as Paul put it (Phil. 1:9), my aim is “that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment.” I encourage you to meditate often on the characteristics of love in 1 Corinthians 13. Then go through Paul’s letters and his actions in the Book of Acts and see how he worked out those qualities in real situations." Steven J Cole
So who are the difficult people who you need to love like Jesus loved you? Is there someone you need to confront with Christian love? Is there a situation that you are holding a grudge about because justice was not served? Apply Jesus' love to the situation and know that God's plan for you cannot be thwarted by the sinful, careless or hateful actions of others. This is a real struggle for me and many days I fail at it miserably. I'm thankful that each day is a new start and a new opportunity to practice the discipline of loving like Jesus.
I am a Christian, a wife, a mom, a VBS crafter, a coupon clipper, a thrift store shopper, a football fan, a cook, a student of the Bible and an avid reader.