Love When It’s Hard to Love

Where the strength comes from to love when we are wronged

She made a beeline for me the minute the plane landed. As I adjusted my mask to again cover my nose (I had been attempting to get some fresh air, as our tiny-aircraft-bumpy-landing caused me some nausea), the flight attendant halted in her tracks right in front of me and said sweetly-sarcastically, “Thank you for putting your mask back over your nose.”

That irritated me. Our plane was practically empty. No one was near me. We were told we could briefly lower our masks to eat or drink. But I wasn’t allowed a few moments to breathe through my nose in order to prevent the cleaning crew from having to mop up my puke from the cabin floor?!

(Sidenote: this article is not about masks. One was just involved in the perpetration of this particular story. Please take a deep breath and keep reading.)

I’d like to be able to tell you that I got over my irritation and behaved like the grown, mature woman that I am, but sadly, I’m human and flawed, and after a week of not sleeping—a particularly long and difficult week—I did not.

In my huff, as I walked by her to de-board the plane, I did not reply or smile to her forced, “Thanks for flying with us.” I ignored her and walked by. Not my finest moment.

Later, God convicted my heart. Love your enemies, Jessica. Do good to those who persecute you. And really, she wasn’t your enemy. She was just a tired airline employee trying to do her job.

Sigh. Busted.

In Matthew 5:44, Jesus said, “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

It’s easy to love those who love us. It’s not hard to be kind to those who’ve shown us kindness. But for those who follow Jesus, we are compelled to love far beyond that. We are to show love to everyone. Always.

Why?

Jesus explained it simply in John 13:34–35:

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

In just those two verses, Jesus repeats it three times: “Love one another.” And these are some of the final words Jesus speaks to his disciples before his arrest and death on the cross. The specific phrase “love one another” shows up 19 times in my NIV New Testament.

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Must be pretty important then, right?

Love should be our first reaction.

We should show love again and again and again.

Love should permeate our existence as Christ followers … always.

Why? Why should we do this crazy thing and love everyone, even our enemies?

The answer is in John 13:35: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples.”

Our love is how people will recognize who we are: Jesus followers. Our love is what will set us apart. Our love is what will show the world who Jesus is and why he came. Our love can make a difference in another’s eternity.

I know it’s not easy to love everyone always … trust me, I know.

In the not-so-distant past, my husband was deeply wronged. And I don’t mean the kind of “wronged” like he got cut off on the freeway by a crazy driver. I mean the kind of jaw-dropping wronged that makes you lose sleep at night wondering how people could be so cruel.

The protector in me wanted to really hurt the people who hurt my husband. My kind, loyal, faithful husband. He’s not perfect, but he has incredible depth of character and integrity, and you won’t find someone more loyal than he is.

I feel like we now have a very tiny inkling of what Jesus might’ve felt when Judas kissed and betrayed Jesus in the garden.

It was not natural for our first reaction to be love in that situation. But my husband blew me away with his kindness and love toward them, despite how they treated him.

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Frankly, it still really stings today. I’m still struggling to love and forgive. Trusting God to work it all out for good. Not taking revenge into my own hands.

Choosing love.

“Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.” —Romans 12:19

Here’s the thing, the God of the universe has our back. He can take care of us. He can take care of our enemies. Our job is to love. First. Again. Always. He’ll take care of the rest. We must love.

The world right now is a crazy place. Social and political unrest. A global pandemic. Economic recession. Schools, businesses and churches partially closed. I’ve never seen anything like it.

We have the chance to make a real difference here. In our families. In our communities. With our enemies.

We have a chance to show them Jesus. But to do that, we must love.

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” —1 Corinthians 13:1–8, 13

This article originally appeared on KurtBubna.com and is reposted here by permission.