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Vol. 15 No. 16 | April 16, 2012
Jesus told His disciples, "Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other." (John 13:34-35, The Message)
Sounds easy enough, right? Just love one another. Just love them like Jesus loved them. Just ask yourself "What would Jesus do?" and you will have your answer. See, simple. Nothing to it! So, what are you waiting for?
Loving one another...loving people would be much easier if everyone was lovable. But they are not. We are not. Maybe that was His point.
If loving people were an easy thing to do Jesus would not have needed to come to earth. There would have been no reason for Him to demonstrate how it is done by washing feet, allow Himself to be beaten, or for Him to die on a cross. If loving people were easy, His words would have been enough. "Just love people!"
Jesus knew we would encounter difficult people. You know those people. He knew we would encounter people who do not act nice, people who do not play nice, people who do not treat you nice, people who do not talk nice to you, and people who do not hold up their part of the relationship. He knew you would have to encounter people who betray you, lie to you, and people who fail to be who they are supposed to be.
Jesus knew you would have people in your life who drive you crazy, hurt your feelings, break your heart, and claim to be followers of Jesus but live like something completely different. He knew there would be those people in your life that, by our reasoning, should be easy to love, but they are not.
He knew that. Those people who walked on those feet He washed were some of those people. The people who are reading these words are some of those people.
He knew it was not easy. That is probably why He showed us how to do it.
It involves humility.
If we are going to love people like...if we are going to just love them, these things will need to happen.
First, we must decide that we will love them no matter what. Some people, especially difficult people, will try our patience and stretch our level of tolerance. "Do you really love me? You say you do, but do your really?" It may be that their own insecurities prevent them from believing that you really do love them. They have heard the words before, from people who were supposed to love them, but abuse and distorted understanding of love broke their spirit and caused them question whether or not they are actually lovable. So, they question, test, and challenge you. If you are going to love them, love them no matter what.
Second, we much get rid of our own pride. You cannot wear your feelings on your sleeve if you are really going to love people. The more you dwell on the fact that the way you have been treated, or are being treated is not fair, the more difficult you will find it is to just love people. Many times they way you are treated will not be fair. The way Jesus was treated was not fair. He loved us anyway. Sometimes you will be mistreated and misunderstood. Love them anyway. Just love them. Do not expect them to say thank you or to respect you or to return your love. Just love them.
Third, our expectations of people must change. This may be the most difficult part of loving people like Jesus did. Jesus told His disciples, "This is how you do it if you want to be known as one of my disciples." He called it a new commandment. But, he gave us the choice. Obviously, many choose not to do it. Knowing us as He does—His creation—I wonder if He is more disappointed when we do not love one another, or more surprised and delighted when we do. Once we place our expectation upon a person we set ourselves up for disappointment. When we expect them to appreciate us, reciprocate, or to love us like Jesus commanded, we are likely to be disappointed.
Let me summarize. To respond to Jesus' invitation to love people like He did, we must be ready to love them no matter what—we must be in it for the long haul. We must keep our pride out of it. Just love them; do not make it about you. And, do your best to love them with absolutely no expectations attached. Just love them.
My prayers are with you as God places that person in your life—the one who presents more challenges than rewards—and says, "Just love them."