We love because he first loved us.
1 John 4:19
Lord, how can I possibly love THAT person?
Perhaps it is that co-worker whose mission in life seems to be to make your job as difficult and unpleasant as possible. Perhaps it is a family member whose addiction has not only torn apart their own life but has left your life and emotions in tatters as well. Perhaps it is your neighbor, who continues to hold loud late-night parties even after you’ve asked them repeatedly to be more considerate. Or perhaps it is that fellow church member, who always seems to find something wrong with what you’ve done no matter how hard you try to do it in “the right way.”
We all have people in our lives who are hard to love. Yet, the fact that we find them hard to love does not excuse us from loving them. Jesus’ command to us is clear: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). And he has made it very clear who our neighbor is—all our fellow human beings. That includes our troublesome co-worker, our addicted family member, our loud next-door neighbor, our nit-picky fellow church member, and anyone else that we may find hard to love.
But how can we possibly love someone when they make it so hard for us to love them? Does God just want us to fake it? Does he just want us to put on a happy face and pretend that everything that bothers us about them doesn’t really matter?
The apostle John gives us the answer to all these questions in today’s Bible passage. He tells us, “We love because he [that is, God] first loved us.” Think about the way in which God has loved you. Did he love you because you always were so kind and pleasant toward him? Did he love you because you had so much to offer him? Did he love you because on your own you were so lovable? No, God loved you in spite of the fact that you were by nature his enemy. He loved you in spite of the fact that you had nothing but your sins to offer him. He loved you in spite of the fact that on your own you were not lovable at all. And his love for you wasn’t just him putting on a smiling face and pretending that the things that made you unlovable didn’t really bother him. No, his love for you was so real and sincere that he willingly sacrificed his Son Jesus on the cross so that everything that made you unlovable in yourself was washed away by Jesus’ precious blood.
Talk about loving someone who was hard to love! God’s love shows us what it means to love everyone, regardless of how lovable they are in themselves. God’s love demonstrates that true love doesn’t depend on how much the person being loved deserves that love. True love depends on a truly loving God who loved us unlovable sinners so much that he sacrificed his own Son for us. As God’s love surrounds and fills our hearts, we have all we need to love even those people that are hard to love. And we will be able to love all our neighbors—even THOSE neighbors—just as God loves each of us.
Heavenly Father, so fill my heart with your love for me in Jesus my Savior that I may love all my neighbors just as you have loved me. Amen.