Christians are called to love. There is no arguing that. While we were still sinners, Jesus loved us to the point of laying down His life for us, and we are commanded to love others with the same unconditional love. Sometimes, loving others is easy. When it comes to my family and friends, love comes naturally. For example, nothing my kids say or do will ever change my love for them or limit my capacity to forgive them. But what do we do when it’s hard to love? Are we really called to love the unlovable?
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“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” – Luke 6:27-28
With today’s political climate, this biblical call to love can be difficult. Our government leaders don’t always prove themselves to be the most lovable. The amount of hatred thrown around regarding our current leadership is more than I have personally witnessed in my lifetime. And I have seen this type of hatred from both Christians and non Christians alike.
But here’s the problem… we are called to love and respect the “kings” God placed over us. It doesn’t matter if we agree with them or even if they’re downright evil. Our call to love remains the same. Keep in mind that when the following verse was written, Believers were under severe persecution by the Roman government. In fact, this letter is said to have been written during the time of Nero.
Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God. Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king. – 1 Peter 2:13-17
Have you ever disagreed with a church leader in your life? Maybe it was a theological disagreement… or perhaps even a personal struggle or offense. The truth is that we won’t always agree with the leadership God has put in our lives. But that doesn’t negate the fact that we are called to love and respect all authority in our lives.
In the New Testament, we find that church leadership was established with a purpose. It helps to keep us accountable and protects us from false teaching and theology. But the truth is that even leadership God puts in place is made up of imperfect human beings. We are all learning and growing in Christ, and this process will always include occasional stumbles and falls. Leaders and pastors are not immune to this. We need to love them and extend the same grace towards them as we need in our own lives.
The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. – 1 Timothy 5:17
Those who have hurt you…
Of all the people on this list, perhaps this one is the hardest. While loving our leaders requires God-given strength, loving those who have deeply hurt us may feel impossible. Our hearts and emotions are often involved in a devastating capacity. When we’re heart-broken… how do we love with a broken heart?
Love forgives and doesn’t keep a record of wrongs. And when someone has wronged us… multiple times… the last thing we want to do is extend them forgiveness. Now, I don’t believe that God meant for us to be “doormats.” There are definitely times when we need to separate ourselves from harmful relationships. But this doesn’t negate God’s command to love and forgive… even if it’s from a distance.
If we had to love and forgive in our own strength, then it truly would be impossible. No one could love the way we are called to love apart from God. He gives us the strength and love we need to live out this command. We simply need to trust that His love can and will flow through our hearts and lives in a supernatural way.
People you disagree with…
Social media can be fun, but it can also be extremely frustrating. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been sucked into all the drama of an online debate. It’s so hard sometimes to not get angry, and it is equally as hard to not get offended. But we must show love even in these difficult situations. In fact, it may be in these circumstances when love speaks the loudest.
Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone. – Titus 3:1-2 (NIV)
Criminals, murderers, thieves… how do we love those who seem so undeserving? How do we love people who show no remorse for their actions? The world would say not to love them. In fact, it’s completely rational by the world’s standards to hate these men and women… those who would harm others on purpose. But we are called to love the unlovable because in the end, that exactly what Jesus did for us. When we were sinners, enemies of God, He laid down His life for us.
“Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. Treat others the same way you want them to treat you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. …Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” – Luke 6:29-32, 36
Jesus loved the unlovable, and we are called to do the same.
*Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.