1 John 4
I was all geared up to shower the unloveable with love. With God drilling the lessons of “love” into me from 1 John 4, I was sure he’d be sending someone my way who desperately needed His love shown through me. I was so pumped, armed with generosity, acceptance, and readiness for the most icky, smelly, sinful person…. But as usual, God had other plans. Of course. Like he’d ever be obvious about where He was going with something. 🙂
As a Christian, it can be natural to seek out that truly unloveable soul to help. A lot of times they’re easy to love, because they are in such need. So as God geared me up to “love” on someone, I’m looking for Him to bring someone into my life who’s really struggling. Someone far from Him, someone in a truly bad situation. Should I be hosting an unwed mother? Looking into foster care? Considering short-term service mission?
But no. For me, my job is to start closer to home. When I was waiting (in vain, of course) for God to bring someone truly unloveable into my life, it hit me. You already have them. Why on earth would God give me strangers and extreme cases before I’m successful at loving those already around me?
Let me tell you, it’s so very tempting to “shelve” the relationships with irritating friends or family, those closest to me who sort of bother you. There aren’t many like this in my life, but sometimes there are just those people you don’t jump to hang out with. People who make you roll your eyes, get under your skin a little, or are just plain not fun to be around. They’re not bad people, but you wouldn’t choose them without their close proximity to you. Coworkers, neighbors, even relatives fit this bill sometimes. God made it clear that this was where my work lay – loving a few specific people already around me.
So what am I to do to start loving them? There’s one truly vital action I’ve learned – pray for them. Forget about praying for an attitude change, or praying for them to “grow to be more like Christ” so those little annoying habits go away. Simply pray for them.
Here’s how this worked for me. First, I started noticing these people’s struggles. I noticed their lives weren’t cake-walks. I also noticed some similarities in our struggles. I started praying for those things, and my heart softened. As I observed and got to know them, I learned what was going on in their lives. I saw what they were good at, the beauty in their heart, and what God saw in them. I began to pray for God to use those talents in them, to develop them.
Isn’t it amazing how God equips us for every task? People may not see the use in prayer, but let me tell you – this is simply ONE magnificent use of prayer. God asks us to love the people around us, and then he gives us the way to do it. Well, several, actually. But the point is, loving is possible when we’re softening our heart enough to ask God to help them. We are suddenly “for” them – on their side.
And let me tell you, it’s truly hard to be annoyed at someone you’re suddenly rooting for.