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
- 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
- Pray – for an understanding and compassionate heart for all God’s people.
- Search – the Scripture for strength and courage to do the difficult.
- Look – past appearances to see everyone as loved by God.
- Learn – stories to prevent quick judgments.
- Meet – everyone as equal a potential partner in God’s kingdom work.
- Offer – grace and mercy to everyone . . . always.
- Find – at least one good thing in everyone you meet.
- Make – the effort to see need and act.
- Know – you’re not fixing, you’re loving.
- 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. 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