“How do you love somebody when you really don’t like what they stand for?”
I got asked this question just recently. And it’s not the first time I’ve been asked this question! Even before anyone ever asked me, it was something I wondered about myself. Why? Because we live in a divided world. All of us have met people that we strongly disagree with.
According to our culture, relationships with those we don’t like or don’t agree with aren’t worth the trouble. Take a pot full of messy relationship and stir in all of the tension found on social media, and you’ll see the divided world that we are living in.
If you’re a follower of Jesus, you know that we are called to love people, but I bet that all of us have asked that question at some point. First of all, just let me say that you’re not a bad person or a “lesser Christian” for asking that question. In fact, it’s a great question! It shows that you are grappling with the two opposing realities of God’s love and a world that promotes hate.
God is love. (1 John 4:16) Jesus showed his love for us while we were still his enemies. (Romans 5:8) Jesus now invites us to love those around us. (1 John 2:9) But the reality is, we have all met people that we just don’t like. We don’t like their attitudes, values, behavior, or what they stand for. So what do we do?
1. We go back to the gospel. The story of Jesus is the story of a God who loved while we were sinners. In other words, we stood for everything that broke God’s heart and nailed his Son to the cross. It was then that Christ loved us. If we really let that sink in and change us, suddenly, we understand what it means to love our enemies.
2. We examine our own pride. When we walk in true humility, we know how much we have failed and fallen short. When we are aware of this, we are less likely to judge the failings of others or be unkind toward them. If we feel like we can continue not loving someone, there’s pride and superiority in there somewhere. When we understand that our sin was unfixable, and required the Son of God to die in our place, we have no place feeling superior over someone else.
Friends, we were not called to walk in pride. We were not meant to live out our lives feeling superior. We were bought at a price, not to hoard God’s love in a safe group of people we like, but to spread it throughout the world. The more we allow it to change us, the more we have to give to the neighbor, the friend, or the family member who is hard to love.
How do we love the people who are hard to love? We sit with Jesus until we become like him.