It’s hard to love everyone. It’s almost impossible to like everyone. Yet, there are ways that we can develop a more Jesus-like heart towards those we find difficult.
God has been challenging me about loving my enemies.
“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”
Matt. 5: 44 - 45
I used to rather piously think I didn’t have any enemies. Perhaps it’s true that there’s no one who’s trying to kill me or physically harm me, but I don’t think that means I can ignore Jesus’ command. There are definitely people who misunderstand me, who mock my faith, who think badly of me because they reject my moral stance on certain issues. But more worrying, there are people that - if I’m honest - I’m guilty of judging or tempted to reject. Maybe it’s because I think they’re using their money for the wrong things, maybe I struggle to see how their faith makes a difference to their life, or maybe they appear to me to be rude or arrogant.
It can be very easy to objectify people or groups of people if we hold them at a distance (see, for example, the increasing prevalence of insensitive and hurtful personal attacks on the internet). It’s easy to slip into hating a faceless mob ‘out there’ (The ‘enemy’ may depend on the political climate, or individual prejudices: ‘communists’, ‘drug addicts’, ‘anti-theists’, ‘Islamic extremists’, ‘bankers’ etc.). How do we reconcile this with the knowledge that Jesus died for everyone and wants to restore their relationship with God?
I’ve found that when I get to know people properly, God can transform my heart towards them. We are all a complicated mix of strengths and weaknesses, endearing and off-putting qualities. I’ve found that spending time with people helps me to love them more. Finding out about them and what makes them tick can bring us closer together. As Atticus Finch said in ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
Here are some questions that I find it helpful to consider:
- What can I learn about this person’s background, dreams, hopes and fears? I need to pray that God will make me patient in listening to and understanding this person’s story.
- What might God want me to learn from this person? Everyone can teach us something so I need to be a humble learner.
- What is this person good at that I’m weak at? Everybody has strengths that I don’t have.
- What do I need to repent of in my attitude or behaviour towards this person? I need to ask Jesus to transform my heart.
- What scriptures can help me understand God’s heart for this person?
- How can I spend time getting to know this person? Can I meet them for a drink or take them out for a meal? Maybe they could show me round their workplace or I could join in a hobby with them.
- What one thing can I do to serve and bless this person this week? Can I send a card with an encouragement? Maybe there’s a physical need I can help with.
- How can I pray for this person?
- How can we both point each other to Jesus and encourage spiritual growth?
Posted by Anne Witton. Posted In : Reflections