“I can’t finish the book. I’m too upset with the main character. Why does she keep leaving him? I just want to tell her to stop!”
“Keep reading,” she was told. “You won’t be sorry. This story has a great ending.”
The dialog went back and forth with some friends during a book discussion on Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers, set in the 1850s during California’s gold rush. It is a story of rejection, redemption and restoration.
The allegory, based on the book of Hosea from the Bible, relates the timeless story of love between God and man. It reminds us of the deep well within each person that cries out to be filled with unconditional, redeeming love from God and from others.
But the main character is so hard to love. The reader just wants to give up on her.
It is easy for us to love some people. Others not so much. Does it please God when we just give up? Oh, how we wish, because it would make life so much easier.
But God wants us to love more, to be more like him. We are called to love those who are hard to love.
... that family member who lets us down
... that person who makes life difficult for us or our child
... that co-worker who treats us poorly
... that spouse who never lives up to expectations
Jesus has given us the ability to love everyone, even those we think you can’t love.
But how? Do we just put on a smile and make fake conversation until we can make the quickest exit? Scriptural directives call us to a greater love.
1. Pray often (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
Each day, pray for God help to see others through his eyes.
He created each one of us, and it’s His kindness that leads us to repentance. When we start to see people the way God sees people, we begin to treat people the way God treats people.
If you’re really struggling to love one person in particular, commit to praying for him or her every day. It’s nearly impossible to hate someone if we’re constantly asking God to move in that person’s life.
2. Humble yourself (James 4:1-6)
None of us is perfect. We can be hard to love, too. Think of how you would want to be treated in this situation, and treat that person the same way.
A humble spirit brings us more clarity. It also opens the door to forgiveness, understanding, and opportunities to reflect Jesus.
3. Be still (Psalm 37:7)
When someone offends us, we often want to strike back. Give the situation some time to simmer down. Hold on to that retort and squelch the desire to retaliate. This psalm reminds us not to fret when people succeed in wickedness.
Wait on the Lord. Trust that he alone gives answers through your patient endurance.
4. Forgive often (Colossians 3:13)
Holding a grudge against someone locks us in a personal prison. Colossians 3:13 is a reminder to bear with the failings of others, and to forgive one another.
A forgiving spirit unlocks the door to greater ability to empathize with those around us.
Remember the un-payable debt Jesus paid for you? Turn around and offer the same grace! You will indeed be free.
5. Set healthy boundaries (Proverbs 13:20)
Jesus was in high demand. He worked day and night. Crowds of people pressed in on him. He had compassion toward everyone, but he also had an inner sanctuary of twelve disciples.
Loving someone doesn’t mean you have to be that person’s best friend. We can love even the most difficult people by being kind, meeting their needs, and showing them respect.
Jesus said people will know we are His followers by the way we love (John 13:35). The ability to forgive anything and love anyone is a uniquely Christian characteristic.
Loving people who don’t love us back can feel thankless at times. But we have a Savior who can relate. Jesus loved us before we knew who He was or wanted a relationship with Him.
Which challenging person in your life needs love? How can you show it today?