Lesson from Dad: Loving Hard to Love People
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We all know that person.
Yes, that person.
The one we’d rather avoid and only interact with when necessary. She’s somewhere between simply unpleasant and outright mean. He’s argumentative with opinions different from yours. Maybe she’s hurt you deeply or worse, harmed one of your kids. Maybe he’s on the other side of the family rift neither side can forgive.
That person is hard to love
When you pass by you release a silent ‘ugh’. When he speaks you roll your eyes with distaste or disgust. You know who I’m talking about. Their name popped into your thoughts as you read this paragraph.
In Sunday’s sermon, Pastor Kayla challenged us to write their name on paper.
Let me tell you, that made it real! Rather than a vague idea, my dislike, my bitterness, and my judgment aimed straight at a person who has a name.
The Level 2 Challenge: bring that person to the table
Just as Jesus welcomes you to his communion table, he warmly welcomes them too. There’s a seat reserved for them – probably right next to yours! Jesus loves them just as he loves you. His love precludes justice. His mercy extends to all.
And God uses us as his delivery system. He calls you to love them. He calls me to love them. God says “make my love real for them.”
In the biblical story, God tells Jonah to announce his mercy to the Israelite’s nasty, viscous, despised arch enemy. You may know the story: Jonah runs in the other direction hoping to escape God’s mission. But God scoops Jonah up and plops him down on enemy shores. Jonah reluctantly delivers the message but with anger that God showed mercy to these clearly evil people.
Jonah was greatly displeased and angry. He prayed to the Lord, “O Lord, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, O Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”
But the Lord replied, “Have you any right to be angry?”
Should I not be concerned about that [hard-to-love person]?
Are you anything like Jonah?
- Do you find God’s compassion for this hard-to-love person unfair?
- Are you at all angry?
- Are you just a tiny bit disappointed in God’s sense of justice?
- Are you reluctant in answering God’s call to demonstrate his love to them?
- Do you run the other way?
- Will you meet the challenge head on?
These are difficult, soul-examining questions. But I learned from my 91-year-old father, who is visiting me, that there’s no better time than right now.
During Pastor Kayla’s message, God brought to mind a cousin we haven’t seen in decades – the one whose name we don’t speak, the one who offended his siblings in a way we can’t even remember. Dad located our estranged cousin’s phone number, called, and asked for his address. “Let’s stop by.” I hesitated because the detour interrupted our afternoon plan. Dad said “this is the most important task right now” so we visited. (I was humbled and extremely proud.)
The Level 3 Challenge: take action.
Why delay? Why not now? Extend tangible love because Jesus invites you to bring that hard-to-love person to his table.
God loves you. God loves that person too.
Let’s go to the Lord in prayer:
- Ask God to identify the hard-to-love person who needs his merciful compassion.
- Write the name on a piece of paper and pray for that person.
- Ask God to give you the courage and strength to love that person.
- Take action. Offer a smile. Send a text. Write a note. Remember that even small acts of love can have a big impact.
- Reflect on your own reluctance and judgment towards difficult people. Ask yourself why you find it hard to love them and what you can do to change. Remember that God’s compassion and mercy extends to all.
Jesus calls us to love our enemies. And clearly explains why we must love them. Who might that be?
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Love this Ms. Cathy. We all know “that person.” The one that you inwardly sigh over whenever you see them approaching you. You paste on that fake smile, offer a platitude, but in your heart you’re thinking something far different from what you’re spewing. I think we’ve all done it. It’s when you realize that what you’re doing is far from God-honoring and shows you what is deeply rooted in your soul that you start to seek a heart change. Learning to love like Christ. Amen sweet friend.
Yup. We probably do it more often than we realize. I definitely have folks I pray myself up for, ask God to help me see them through his eyes, give me patience and understanding. Thanks for engaging J.D.