Extending Love to Hard to Love People by Chrissie Angell
Have you ever been hurt by someone in a way that cuts you to the core and makes you tremble with emotions? Maybe you laid awake at night, tossing and turning, as you thought about the things that person said or did. How they let you down for the umpteenth time. Maybe they disappointed you. Or abandoned you. They hurt you.
People fail us. And when they do, it can be hard to love them. Not only are certain people hard to love, sometimes we don’t want to love them. We justify our lack of love towards them by their bad behavior towards us.
Several years ago, I went through a situation like that. I learned that someone was gossiping and spreading lies about me. Within a couple of days, my character was in question and, with it, my testimony.
I honestly didn’t know what to do. My gut instinct was to fight back. I wanted to loudly tell my side of the story and expose the lies so that everyone would see the truth.
As I prayed about the situation, I was reminded that Jesus told us in Matthew 5:44 to love our enemies.
Honestly, I didn’t want to love someone trying to ruin my reputation and pit people against me. Everything within me wanted to defend myself. I cried myself to sleep for several nights in a row because it was just so painful. How was I supposed to love that person?
HOW do we love someone who hurt us? How do we love our enemies or even our frienemies?
One of my favorite things about the Bible is how it works so perfectly to support itself. God didn’t just give us commands to do hard things like “love your enemies” and then leave us to our own devices to figure out how to obey. Throughout the Scriptures, we read passage after passage supporting the idea of loving your enemies.
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:1-7 (ESV)
Isn’t that a beautiful passage?
We were dead in our trespasses and sin. The word “dead” in this specific passage means “a spiritual death, destitute of a life that recognizes and is devoted to God.”
We were complete strangers to God—we didn’t know Him at all. During that time, we were doing what we wanted, following the world’s practices contrary to God’s desires. Simply put, we were living in sin against Him.
In our sinful, worldly ways, not only were we utterly ignorant of God, but we were also living a life that deserved the divine wrath of the Holy God.
I don’t know about you, but when I think about that, it makes the wrongs done to me by others seem a little less significant. I think back to the person spreading lies and trying to ruin my reputation. Then, I think about all of the things I’ve done wrong, all of the sins I’ve committed against the Holy God, and to be honest, those hurtful words and schemes aimed at me don’t seem all that significant.
Because I love God a lot, but that hasn’t always been enough to prevent me from being selfish and proud and putting my desires above Him. That’s embarrassing to admit, but it’s true.
We all sin, don’t we? Our flesh is strong and wants what it wants.
We’re flawed, imperfect people who sin. It makes sense that if we’re not perfect, others aren’t either. People are going to do things that hurt us.
In contrast, God is perfect, infallible; He is holy. Yet we still sin against Him. We hurt Him deeper than a fellow flawed human could ever hurt us.
“But God,” the perfect, infallible, Holy God who we sin against, who by all rights should pour out wrath onto us for our sin, is “rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, [God] made us alive together with Christ (v. 4).”
God, the perfect, holy One, has so much love for us that He extended forgiveness to us WHILE we were still dead in our trespasses.
Before we even thought to ask for forgiveness, God extended perfect forgiveness to us through the death of His Son.
When it comes to loving our enemies, we should also remember what Jesus commanded in John 13:34. He said, “love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” God demonstrated love by extending forgiveness to us. Shouldn’t we do the same?
That doesn’t feel natural. We don’t want to forgive people who hurt us. In fact, we’re often told not to forgive others but to hold on to how people have hurt us and remember what they did so we don’t get hurt again.
Yet, in Matthew 18:21,22, when Peter asked Jesus how many times we should forgive someone, Jesus replied, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times (ESV).” Some translations say 70x7 times, but let’s not split hairs. Jesus told us to forgive others a lot of times!
When we forgive others, we live out John 13:34 and love others how God in Christ Jesus loved us! When we forgive others, we are being obedient.
More importantly, when we love others by extending forgiveness, we demonstrate the love of the Father to them, and they will see that we are different. When we lovingly forgive others, John 13:35 is fulfilled, and they will know we belong to Jesus!
Forgiveness extended freely exhibits the Father’s love.
And that is what we are called to do.
Friends, we are no longer slaves to the world, living according to the prince of the power of the air. We are children of God who is rich in mercy and extended forgiveness to us through the blood of Jesus Christ because of His great love for us (v. 7)!
Extending forgiveness to others is one of the most loving things we can do.
Is there someone who has hurt or wronged you? If so, the most loving, Christ-like thing you can do is forgive them in your heart today.
Can you imagine the impact we could have on this world that is so full of hate and divisiveness if we loved like the Father? What would it look like if we extended forgiveness freely instead of demanding retribution, arguing our case, or making people earn forgiveness? Friends, that is how the world will know we belong to Jesus!
Take a few minutes to search your heart and see if there is someone you need to forgive today. If so, pray that the Lord will help you release the hurt or anger you’re holding onto. Then, pray that He will receive the glory and that His love will be known to others.
Gracious God, thank You for your great love for us. Thank You for extending forgiveness to me out of your love, even though I don’t deserve it. Lord, please help me forgive others the way You’ve forgiven me. As I do, I pray people will know I belong to You and that You will be glorified! I love You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.