Some People We Have to Work at Loving

If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?  The unsaved do that…. But love your enemies and do good and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great…. –Luke 6:32-35

I was a freshman in college, with everything that implies:  I was green, scared, eager, excited, learning, stupid, silly, self-centered, and a hundred other things.

Among the employees on our campus was Mrs. Grigsby.  I can see her to this day: stern, tight-lipped, unfriendly, and unloving. We thought she looked more like a man than a woman. She was all business, never a ‘good morning,’ and generally unpleasant, we all thought.

Among her other duties, Mrs. Grigsby cleaned the hallways and bathrooms of our dormitory.  (Students were expected to keep our own rooms clean. What a joke.)

The guys in our dorm would make nasty jokes about Mrs. Grigsby behind her back.  She was a convenient target and no one spoke up in her defense.  Boys being boys.

One day my girlfriend back home in Alabama told me something unsettling.  “I have a relative who works at the college where you go.”  She had never met her, but was told this by her mother.  A day or two later, she broke the news to me.

“Her name is Grigsby.”

Yikes.  My girlfriend was related to the campus nightmare.

How in the world was I to deal with this, I wondered.  What if the word ever got out that I was in any way connected to that woman, however remote. What was I to do?

You know the rest of this story, I expect.  In time, I introduced myself to Mrs. Grigsby and discovered that she had the sweetest smile.  She was unfriendly to the boys in the dorm because they were a pretty raucous bunch.  Behind that façade was a nice lady.

It was a good lesson.

The Lord delights in putting into our paths people who are not like us, who do not like us, who seem strange–in order to knock us out of our little selfish ways.

Love this woman.  Love this family.  Love this tribe.

When we learn to love those we had previously written off, we grow and become a little more like Jesus.  After all, He loved us when we stood around the cross spitting and jeering and cursing.  That was us, you know.

Someone on Facebook asked the other day, “How will we know that someone we meet is the Lord appearing to us?”  Various answers came in.  The best answer was just two words: “In retrospect.”

Only after it’s over do we look back and realize that person who ministered to us or allowed us to minister to them or showed up at the critical moment happened to be from the Lord.  Or the Lord Himself.

Our job is to love everyone, friendly or not, gracious or not, deserving or not.  Love your neighbors, yes.  Love fellow disciples, absolutely.  Love the Lord our God supremely, you bet.  And love your enemies (Luke 6:27).  Say what?? Love our “enemies”?   The very people who want us to fail, to flop miserably, to never rise again?

Yes indeed.  That actually is the test of whether you and I take seriously the words of the Lord Jesus, whether we can–and will make the effort–to do loving things to those who mean ill for us.

Don’t miss that.  I did not say we have to “feel” loving toward them. Jesus did not say that at all. In fact, God never defines love by our feelings.  Jesus said if we love Him, we show it by our obedience. That truth is found in many places, but all crammed up together and repeatedly in John 14 (verses 15,21,23,24) and 15 (verses 10,14,17).

Your enemies, according to the Luke 6:27ff passage are those who hate you, threaten you, curse you, take what is yours, etc.

And by “loving them,” our Lord specifically mentions doing good deeds to them, saying good things to them (blessing them), praying for them (asking God to do healing things to them), and giving to them.

So, who is the Lord directing your attention to today?  A meanie who intends you hurt, or just someone whom you find it hard to love?  Pay attention because the Father is trying to grow you.

A racial group, perhaps?  An unwashed family across town?  An unkempt person who showed up at your church?  A dirty child in your classroom? People in jail.  Or in prison.  On death row, even.  Addicted people.  Abusers in rehab.

A preacher?  A Baptist?  A Mormon?  A Jehovah Witness?

You can love them without approving what they are doing or feeling all warm and mushy inside.  Try it.