I am writing this on the day before Valentine’s Day. As do many of you, the holiday makes us think of those we love, have loved, or wish we could love (I’m trying to cover as many of the bases as possible here). However, I was thinking along different lines the other day. I was thinking about how we learn about and express our love for others.
Learning to Love
There are some people for whom loving others comes very easy. We all know people like this. They have open and overflowing hearts that express love freely and joyfully to others in countless ways. They exude compassion, kindness, mercy, patience, generosity, encouragement, and affection, in enormous servings on those they encounter. These beautiful souls, because of their enlarged capacity for loving others, are themselves very easy to love in return. Love is like that. As it blooms and expands and spreads like ivy over a wall, it becomes natural to reciprocate.
While there are a number of wonderful people like this, many of us only display this to a lesser degree. We try, but often fail to fulfill our call to love friend and stranger. This makes us a little more challenging target for others when it comes to loving. There are still others who, to be honest, are self-obsessed, cruel, selfish, petty, miserly, and bitter souls. They are among the number who simply don’t love others easily, if at all. Because of this, they are extraordinarily difficult people to love. It is easy to blow them off, treat them with disdain, ignore them, and return evil for evil. It is the rare person who can transcend this negativity with love.
Why does God put these polar opposites in our life? What is He doing in us through these people? I submit to you that both are part of God’s means of teaching us two major lessons.
First of all, He uses the first group as examples for us. We are drawn to them, not merely because they show us love, but because we desire to be like them. We can and should learn the practice of love from them, particularly where the recipient is less than loving themselves.
Second, he uses the last group to teach us a different lesson. It is an imperfect, but useful picture of how God loves us. You see, we deceive ourselves as to how lovable we are in His eyes. In comparison to His perfect holiness, we are far more unworthy recipients of loving behavior than how we perceive other difficult people to be in comparison to ourselves. Yet He still loves us. With overwhelming, undeserved, sacrificial, and everlasting love. It is a love that sometimes brings chastisement and pain, but with the purpose of ultimately bringing healing. Love is never outside of His purview, and that is the lesson He has for us—for loving the lovable is easy. Loving the unlovable is hard. However, when we keep the reality of His gracious love for us in our minds and hearts, loving the unlovable becomes much more possible.
Because that is who we are. We are the unlovable ones, for whom He died. Because He loves us.