~Luke 6:36 Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.
Most of us think that God refers to those “unlovable” people when we read this verse. We think that it is fulfilling the following: Matthew 25:34-40, Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: (34) For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: (35) Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. (36) Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? (37) When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? (38 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? (39) And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. (40)
But what about those “prickly” people who are closer to you than strangers? What about those hard to love church folks? What about those estranged family members? What about your own flesh and blood family who have wronged you? Do you think God excluded those from these verses? Are we placing restrictions on God’s word by omitting them from the mercy we should be showing? Is God’s love conditional? Is our love conditional?
For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. (Romans 5:6) But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8
If God’s love were conditional, we are definitely in big trouble, for we have all sinned. (Romans 3:23) Why should our love for those I’ve mentioned be any different? Does God not encourage us throughout the Scriptures to have the same agape love that He has for us? If God took to heart all the bad things we did or said, He would have every right to shun us! Remember the old adage, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”? Easier said than done, right? Broken bones heal but words sure do cut to the core of a person’s heart. Hurtful words are like squeezing a tube of toothpaste. Once the paste is out, you cannot put it back in – neither can you take back the hurt from those words! How does the world react to hurtful words? I remember my old days – get even, that’s the only way. The Lord sure has done a work in my heart since then.
I once heard an old saying, “Everyone is chewing on something which is hard to swallow!” We are not the only ones going through difficult times. There is a hardship in someone’s life at any given time. Everyone has a ‘cross’ that they are bearing that no one knows about.
However, why is it that we struggle with this more when it is someone of our own household? These family members are the ones that need our testimony the most. Strangers don’t see us as we truly are. They don’t see us in the privacy of our owns home – behind closed doors. Our families see us for what we really are. All the more reason for us to show mercy and compassion to those who are lost or backslidden.
Have you been hurt deeply by a family member? Have you been hurt by a church member? I know I have. Loving those prickly and hard-to-love people is not something we can do in our own flesh. We just cannot “make” ourselves love them. But we can love them with God’s love. How? Love is a word of motion. Love takes action on our part. God showed us this action by leaving His throne and dying for our sins. That is the ultimate display of agape love. It was not a “sit back and see what happens” love but an action love – “I will go to them and see what I can do for them” kind of love.
If we want to get strong physically, we exercise and build up our muscles. If you want to be stronger in the agape love area, start working at it by doing something for those you find difficulty loving. Christ Jesus was our example, was He not? Then follow His example. Go out there and do something for those you struggle with. Forgive them in your heart and move on. The devil would love nothing better than for you to hold on to resentment and bitterness toward those who have hurt you. You no longer serve him so why obey him? Serve your Father in Heaven instead and put some action to your work.
Are you too afraid to speak to that person face-to-face? Why not send a card or an email? Start “doing” for them as you would a total stranger. Start from scratch and build your testimony once again. If you need to ask forgiveness, then do so. If they wronged you, forgive them and move forward. Let the healing power of the Holy Spirit heal you. This is not an option in a Christian’s life. We are commanded, my friend, to love as Christ has loved. This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. (Joh 15:12) Did Christ set limits to His love? Did He only die for certain people? No, He died for all sinners. Therefore, your love for others cannot have conditions. I know this is not an easy thing to hear. But as long as we neglect this great teaching and disobey this commandment, are we not out of the Father’s will?
Matt. 18:21-22, Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? (21) Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven. (22) I know it’s difficult, but we’re commanded to forgive. What would you do if Christ did not forgive “some” of your own sins? Christ did not set limits, nor should we. This is agape love, my friend. Once you have forgiven this person in your heart, you are free from the chains of resentment that are binding you. Once you love this person the way Christ loves, you are no longer bound by bitterness and resentment. It no longer matters how you feel. What matters is to bring reconciliation.
The next step would be to face your offender. You would be amazed to find the reasoning behind their motives. It does not mean the offense is overlooked – it just means that you learn how to approach that person and discuss the offense with forgiveness already in your heart. That’s the difference. Listen with Christ’s heart rather than your own. Can you imagine how Christ felt? He died for you before you even asked forgiveness! Some never ask for forgiveness yet He died for them too.
As we grow in Christ, we should be viewing the unlovable and prickly people as opportunities to reconcile them to God. What would we have done if Christ had treated us the way we treat those who are unlovable? Are we any different than they? No, but we have the power through Christ to treat the unlovely as He would. What a testimony we can be! What a powerful message we can preach just in our actions alone! What about that brother or parent you’ve been witnessing to for years? Have you had fight after fight trying to point out their sin? Has it brought the two of you closer together or has it brought distance between you? Were you successful in showing them their lost condition? Probably not. Have they hurt you in return? There are some things that you just cannot control, and one of them is their reaction. But what you can control is your reaction. With forgiveness in your heart, you are free to love them the way Christ loves them. Put into practice this agape love and start loving them with action. Do things for them – send a card, make a phone call, bake a cake, make a meal when they are sick – but just do it!
Put Christ’s love in motion and love them unconditionally.