If you’re like me, then you probably have people in your life who rub you the wrong way. You know who I’m talking about. In fact, a short (or long) list of particular individuals is likely coming to mind right now. Maybe it’s the neighbor whose rudeness and negativity drags you down or the coworker who gets on your nerves. Perhaps every time you’re near this friend-of-a-friend you sense the vibe that she’d rather you not be there (for reasons that escape you, of course). It’s probable that these people live very different lives, and your personalities don’t mesh well. And that’s okay, right?
I’m a non-confrontational person. I typically try to deal with these sorts of relationships through a) avoidance or b) exchanging surface-level pleasantries when avoidance isn’t an option. But God has placed everyone in our life for a purpose. We need to seek and know God’s will in order to live a life worthy and pleasing to Him. Hebrews 11:6 says, “It is impossible to please God without faith,” and James 2:17 states, “Faith without works is dead.” The way we live our life is our faith put into action.
As committed followers of Christ, our lives must testify what God has done and is doing in us. True biblical love is not merely a warm feeling driven by the ebb and flow of our emotions (despite what the phrase “falling in love” may suggest). It’s a choice rooted and demonstrated in action. Scripture is clear that we must put on love and forgive each other out of that love, not because we deem someone worthy of it but because of Christ’s undeserved love that led Him to lay down His life for our sins. The two greatest commandments we have been given are to love God and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. True love doesn’t really look like avoidance or surface-level pleasantries, despite what my heart and head sometimes tell me. So how do we cultivate this kind of love in our lives? Here are three tips to actively strive to love those who are extra hard to love:
Pray for the Spirit to help you love others the way God has commanded us to. Loving someone this way—being willing to lay down our lives for another—is radical. The good news is that when Jesus commands us to love our enemies, He gives us the ability to do so. 1 John 4:7-8 says, “Love is from God. . . for God is love.” Before Colossians 3 tells us to put on love, it says to put on the new self and put to death what is sinful in us. Pray that God gives you the ability to see those who annoy you as He sees them. It’s harder to hate those we are continually lifting up in prayer.
Set aside your difference.
Even though the root of why you feel you don’t get along with someone may stem from their seeming dislike of you, Romans 12:21 says, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” One of my pastor’s many taglines is “I’m gonna love you, and there is nothing you can do about it.” Love is powerful. It breaks down walls and restores strained relationships. Jesus’ life on earth serves as a perfect example for how we can deeply connect with others by loving them relentlessly, despite our differences or disagreements. Jesus poured Himself out as a living sacrifice for all mankind. Living a life for Christ means denying ourselves (and our need for justice or desire to be right).
Remember you’re kind of impossible to love too.
Due to our self-gratifying, sinful nature, we are all hard to love. We can be annoying, short-tempered, ungrateful, and stubborn, but still Jesus lavishly loves us. Pastor Josh Ivy says, “Jesus doesn’t love us because we are good. Jesus loves us because He’s good.” We’re forgiven and covered by the gift of God’s grace, and none of this is a credit to how awesome or lovable we may believe ourselves to be. Matthew 10:8 reads, “Freely you have received, freely give.” This mindset allows us to shift the focus off of ourselves — and what we may or may not deserve — and onto what Jesus has done for us and how we must, in turn, treat others.
We are called to love all people, even when it’s really, really hard. This is the greatest way we can reflect who God is to the world —humbling ourselves and bearing with one another in gentleness, patience and love. Who are you being called to love today?