One of my personal areas of focus for the New Year is learning and growing in my love and compassion for others, especially for the people around me who are neglected/unloved, and those who are a little harder to love.
I’m sure we all struggle with loving those unloveable people around us. It might be unintentional on their part (or it might not), but that doesn’t make the job any easier for us. And we know we need to love them. After all, that’s what a true Christ-follower would do.
So maybe we grudgingly set aside differences and paste on fake smiles just so we can get through the moment without losing it and throwing a punch in the nose, just long enough until we can go home and let out our rants to the dog, or, if possible, just forget about the whole mess for a blessed eight or twelve hours.
Something tells me that a practice like that is not going to solve the root of the problem.
God has been slowly revealing to me more and more lately what it looks like to be able to love someone who is hard to love, and not in a fake, put-on, do-I-have-to way.
We know that Jesus was the ultimate picture of giving undeserving love when he forgave those people who nailed him to the cross. But, we say, that’s different–after all, Jesus is God.
No, it’s not really that different.
Because though Jesus was fully God as He lived and breathed on earth, He was also fully human, subject to all the weaknesses and temptations of the most human among us. He felt the temptations of sin come at him at all times: the anger and revenge and hatred that called to Him as He hung on the cross. He felt it all, in the worst possible way, and yet, rejected it and instead replaced it with the truest and humblest of love, compassion, and forgiveness. He has felt all our humanity and weakness, and He knows it and empathizes with us in the truest way.
I know that it’s hard enough to love your best friend on a bad day, so how can we ever hope to have that true, generous, unconditional love like Jesus’ toward the worst of the worst people in our lives?
The only way we can hope to have the teeniest bit of that genuine love that God has is to see them, and ourselves, through Jesus’ eyes.
Look at the world through Jesus-colored glasses
“And Jesus, moved with compassion…” (Mark 1:41). Jesus lived and acted out of compassion toward everybody. Rich or poor, proud or humble, wicked or penitent. He treated all people the same way, because He had a common interest in all. All were sinners in need of a Savior, and all were equally loved by the Savior. All had broken the law in some way, and thus, all were equally guilty of death. And so He had no partiality toward any person or group or set of people, because all were equal.
What if we saw all people, including ourselves, as equal? Equally guilty, equally full of weaknesses and shortcomings, equally deserving of death, equally helpless to climb out of the pit of doom and destruction. But also equally loved, accepted, forgiven, equally bestowed with mercy, grace, and all the blessings heaven has to offer. Equally watched over and cared for by God as a Father does His children, wayward or not.
If that was constantly our perspective, I think a lot of our reason for begrudging love toward our fellow unloveables would evaporate quicker than steam from a kettle.
We are all unloveable in our original, essential state. We all have things about us that make us unloveable in each other’s eyes. But we are all loved radically and incomprehensibly by our Father in heaven.
How can that be? I certainly don’t understand it. But as He loves us, that’s how we love others, especially the unloveable.
See them as loved by God, and then . . . then, you love them, too. Love them like you love the loveable. Love them the way you love your best friend on their best day. Love them like that, and a little bit more.
When we can see others through God’s eyes, our perspective changes. Our motives for showing love–instead of being out of compulsion, or duty, not really from the heart–become pure and genuine.
“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.”