How to Love the Unlovely – It’s Not About Me

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You and I are to love like we love like Jesus. But love the unlovely? It's hard! I know the struggle and I'm doing something about it. How to love the unlovely. I planned this in my editorial schedule weeks ago. Back when it seemed far away and easy to write. But it’s not at all easy… This is a hard. I wonder if it’s hard for you too. Loving the unlovely. The less than lovable. Loving when everything in you and me screams . . . I don’t want to! 

Lord, do you KNOW how unpleasant he is? Do you know what she said? How they hurt me? What he did? What they do?

I don’t want to! It’s hard. It’s unpleasant. They’re unlovely. And the Lord says, “I know. But it’s not about you.” And that’s where I get stuck. So, I’d like to invite you into the sticky with me. Into the self-challenging thoughts that remind me to look beyond me. Because you see, I can keep myself busy with what’s easy. I can hurry through my days loving on my family and my friends. (Okay, maybe they’re not always easy or lovely but… they’re not the part of society I’d label “unlovely.”) And I convince myself I just don’t have time. I’m doing enough. But then I hear Jesus say once again, “It’s not about you. It’s about me.” So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:34–35 Or remember these words?

‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’ Matthew 25:40

Loving is doing.  You and I are to love like we love like Jesus. But love the unlovely? It's hard! I know the struggle and I'm doing something about it. Not just when it’s easy. Not just the lovable. Not just those who love us. Not… And Jesus didn’t just talk about it, loving is what Jesus did.

  • The crowds who were like sheep without a shepherd. (Mark 6:34)
  • People with questionable backgrounds. (John 4 and Matthew 9)
  • People with broken hearts. (Psalm 147:3)
  • People with diseases. (Matthew 4:23)
  • People who betrayed Him. (Luke 19:41)

We can slip into thinking it was easier for Jesus. After all, He’s God. He’s love. But as true man, He experienced the full range of feelings and emotions you and I know. Those who were closest to Him reported that He never gave in to the temptations of His feelings.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Hebrews 4:15

I told you this wasn’t an easy post to write. I’m at that difficult intersection of faith and life. That place that says what does God want me to do with this? I’m uncomfortable looking at the truth of my own lack of action. So now what?

How to Glorify God and Love the Unlovable

  1. Pray – for an understanding and compassionate heart for all God’s people.
  2. Search – the Scripture for strength and courage to do the difficult.
  3. Look – past appearances to see everyone as loved by God.
  4. Learn – stories to prevent quick judgments.
  5. Meet – everyone as equal a potential partner in God’s kingdom work.
  6. Offer – grace and mercy to everyone . . . always.
  7. Find – at least one good thing in everyone you meet.
  8. Make – the effort to see need and act.
  9. Know – you’re not fixing, you’re loving.
  10. Remember – loving is about giving of yourself to glorify God.

Finally, you and I can’t do it by ourselves. We need to know when to say “no.” We need to take time away with God to listen for those times when we should act and times when we should wait. We need to pray. That’s where I’m starting. I’m praying first for forgiveness for missed or ignored opportunities. I’m praying to see everyone through my Father’s eyes. And I’m praying for the courage to act and love like Jesus. You and I are to love like we love like Jesus. But love the unlovely? It's hard! I know the struggle and I'm doing something about it. I know I won’t ever love the unlovely perfectly, but oh, by His grace I pray I will do better.

The love for the less fortunate is a beautiful thing–the love for those who suffer, for those who are poor, the sick, the failures, the unlovely. This is compassion, and it touches the heart of the world. ~ Frederick Buechner

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  1. What a beautiful post! Thanks for taking the time – and being brave enough – to write about something many of us don’t want to consider. It’s difficult to grow in this area, but thankfully we have a God who works on tough hearts and changes lives for His glory! I love all of your steps, but appreciate the reminder of #7 – “Find at least one good thing in everyone you meet.” THIS is the key. Looking at people the way Christ looks at them!
    Sharing this all over today, Deb. I love it. 🙂

    1. Thanks, Alison. This was one of the hardest posts I’ve written this year. It’s hard to admit that for most of us it’s easier to look the other way. Praying and practicing loving like Jesus even when it’s not easy. Blessings to you, my friend!

      1. I too have issues with certain people that are hard to love in my family and and work. This is a good reminder for me to remember, when I see people being ugly and hateful. Specially when they don’t even know my personal life. Sometimes is hard and sad. Need to cont to practice #7 -10 over and over again. Thank you for sharing.

        1. I’m glad it helped, Maria! I think we all struggle at times with difficult people. And we won’t love perfectly this side of heaven but with God’s help, I know many of us are trying to do better. God bless you! Thanks so much for visiting and for your kind encouragement.

  2. Funny, this is something that I pray for my pastor and his wife continually — I believe that this is a huge challenge for all of us, but particularly for those who are in vocational ministry. Thanks for your very sharp insights on a tough assignment.

    1. It is a tough assignment. Looking past our circle to the unlovely person who enters whether it’s our neighborhood, our church, or place of employment. Praying to keep my eyes watchful for opportunities and my heart open to love. Blessings.

  3. As a pastor (and I know you know this cuz of Rev), if I cannot love the unlovable I have nothing to stand on. I have business being in the “pastor” business. I really have no business looking in the mirror in the morning because I am unlovable.

    1. Amen, Bill! Remembering how unlovable we each are helps the most. It keeps us humble which helps us love. Blessings!

  4. Beautiful post! I love how God communicates to us, even when it’s something we might not want to hear. It’s so important to remember that it’s not about us, it’s about showing others His glory. Thank you for sharing this!

    1. All for His glory and with His help. The very thing that makes all things possible. Remembering we can do all things with His help, even the hard. Thank you for your kind encouragement. Many blessings!

      1. Thanks for the article I am dealing with a difficult neighbor right now and yes they aren’t the only ones who can be difficult.I know my faults but I also know Yahweh forgives me it’s what the word says.I have tried to apologize for my part in the conflict but have not been forgiven by offended neighbor.They continue to harass and belittle me.Curse me out and even destroy my gospel tracts I put out on their friends cars.I want to do what the word says and love them but it’s hard.So I pray and keep trying to love them all the while being persecuted by them.
        Oh and by the way from one professing Christian woman to another here is a verse for you…May it bless and encourage you to do right as well….
        1 Corinthians 11:1-16
        Praise Yahshua for truth!

        1. I don’t think there are many things that take more grace, strength, and patience than dealing with a difficult person who acts cruelly. I’m so sorry you’re going through this. I’m praying for you and that God will work in the heart of your neighbor. God bless you.

  5. A few years back, my word for the year was “love.” Wow! Did it ever help me to see my neighbor in a new light, as a child of God and loved by Him. And you’re so right, Deb, it’s not about us, it’s about doing what Jesus commanded we do.
    Easy? Not on your life, but we can accomplish all things with God’s help.

  6. Such truth. Even though I sometimes forget, I’m so glad it’s about Him, not me. Great list, Deb. I especially like your emphasis on learning stories. Everyone has a history that makes them who they are, and it’s so much harder to find judgment when you take the time to know stories. Lovely post, thank you for sharing. ((hug))

  7. Deb, Even though this post was difficult for you to write, you did a beautiful job. Yes, our job is to love–love as Jesus did. It’s not easy for us at all, however, we do have examples of people around us who are able to love the unlovable. My pastor is an example of one who has learned to love others, even those who are challenging to love.

    In some way, I think we are all love challenged.



  8. What a great post on a very hard thing to do, Deb!
    To love the unlovely – what a challenge that is sometimes!
    Thanks for another wonderful post.
    I’m sharing this one all around!

  9. You have a beautiful heart, Deb! God’s love shines through you! I’m so glad you had the courage to write this. It can be so hard to show love sometimes. We are all sinners saved by the love of Jesus. When we look to Him He shows us how to love. I love all your tips, esp..(Make the effort to see a need and act)

  10. Praying to see everyone through the Father’s eyes. Very powerful. Definitely a convicting sentence. I definitely fail in this area, especially if you’ve been wounded. Thank you for this challenging post!

  11. Oh, Deb, I am so convicted. It is hard to love those who are unlovable and it’s something I need to work on. BUT, I don’t want others to feel this about me. I want to live a life where I don’t cause others to not want to love me. Thank you for sharing with Thankful Thursdays.

  12. I’ve been praying this way for a certain family member who I have had conflict with for years and God has been slowly changing the way I view this person. Prayer is the most important thing we can do!

  13. Anne Hagen says:

    A wonderful post. Thank you so much. Will refer back to it. God Bless

    1. Hi, Tammie! This one hit home for me, too! I need a reminder from the Lord often on the ways He wants us to love one another. Thanks so much for visiting and for joining the conversation! God bless you!