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How to Love People Who are Difficult to Love

It's clear from that passage (and many others) that as Christians we're called to love the people who are difficult to love. And every now and then one of those people enters my life. 

Recently I was praying for someone, and there’s no nice way to say this–I was praying for someone I don’t really like.

We’re called to be like Christ though, which means we are to love like he does.  Easy enough, right? Love people the way the holy and perfect God of the universe does. Check.

But let’s be honest, there’s a major disconnection between theory and practice at times. Let me tell you about how I noticed this apply in my own life lately, and we’ll see if you can relate.

Loving Others

My spiritual family is one of the biggest blessings I’ve experienced so far in my life. This group of people is a gift straight from the hand of God. We meet as a group weekly (and see each other on Sunday mornings as well) but we’re in constant communication about anything and everything all week long.

To actually have people outside of my biological family who would drop what they’re doing to hit their knees and pray for me the moment they receive a text amazes me. People who would sacrifice nights and weekends with their own family to spend time with me. People who don’t keep the knowledge, wisdom and discernment the Lord has given them for themselves, but freely share it with me and others. To see humility, unconditional love, and empathy expressed without sacrificing correction, discipline and sound judgement is a true testament to God’s character. There is nothing quite like the love of a spiritual family.

Here’s where it gets difficult. Loving people I like is really easy. Loving people I don’t really care for is like trying to smile at mile 24 in a marathon (for you nonrunners, it’s hard, very hard–every ounce of me hates the idea of it). However…

Matthew 5:43-44 says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,”

It’s clear from that passage (and many others) that as Christians we’re called to love the people who are difficult to love. And every now and then one of those people enters my life. 

There’s something about a prideful and arrogant heart that is just plain ugly. And when I cross paths with someone who has those tendencies it’s hard to want to spend any time with them let alone love them the way Christ loves the church. Ready for the gut punch? As I prayed for this person recently, God reminded me how much I had in common with him.

Lord have mercy.

Here I am doing my due diligence praying for someone who needs it, and God reminds me never to forget the ugliness within my own heart. We all need Jesus. And not just once. I need Jesus every day for the rest of my life.

So here’s the prayer I wrote in my journal, “God, please increase my patience and show me how I’m no different than this person, remind me of what you had to endure for my sin. Keep my own pride and selfishness in check. Make me more like you, Jesus.”

As if I forgot about my own addiction to selfishness.

A Lesson From Daniel

I recently finished reading the book of Daniel. When I finish reading a book of the Bible I tend to look back over the passages I’ve highlighted or underlined to revisit some of the pieces that stood out to me most. Last week, one verse really grabbed my attention and spoke perfectly into the idea of loving those with hard and selfish hearts.

“Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.” Daniel 4:37

After King Nebuchadnezzar essentially had a nervous break down and lost all his power, his authority was restored and he gives glory to God saying “those who walk in pride he is able to humble.” He’s speaking about himself.

As I re-read this phrase I felt compelled to write it out a few times in my journal but instead of writing “those who walk in pride” I inserted my own name. “And Kirsten, who walks in pride, he is able to humble.” Then I proceeded to replace it with other people’s names who if I’m being honest with you I don’t really believe can change. (Side note, this is another really helpful way to get more out of Bible passages– where it’s clear the passage is addressing the reader, insert your name and make it personal).

I don’t love these people the way God loves them. But when I put their name in that sentence, it gives all the power to the Lord and he is able. In all of it, God was reminding me to never underestimate what he is able to do and who he is able to save.

Take a minute this week to ask God who you haven’t been loving the way you’re called to love. Who do you think God is not able to humble? Who do you treat differently because of the way they treat you? Who’s personality rubs you the wrong way? Because I need to tell you friend, none of those are reasons to avoid engaging in heart felt, gospel- centered, loving conversations–if anything they’re more reason to do so.

Let’s surrender our intentions to the Lord, confess our tendencies to hate those we dislike instead of love them, and remember He is Lord, not us. Thank heavens.

In Him,

Kirsten Elsa

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