The Greatest Challenge

“Do to others as you would like them to do to you.” Luke 6:31

I don’t know about you but I remember hearing that verse frequently as a kid, usually, I suppose, when I wasn’t being nice to a friend. Quite frankly, I only remember one instance of being mean (it’s entirely possible that my memory is just poor) and I still feel horrible about it. I have even heard this verse used in a teaching about how we need to love ourselves also. Obviously, if we’re going to act loving toward others we have to be able to love ourselves, too.

Let’s Be Real

Seriously, though, loving people (and even ourselves) SOUNDS easy enough but in reality it’s super hard. I remember reading Bob Goff’s books Everybody Always and Love Does thinking how inspiring they were. “It’s not hard to love people,” I reasoned, “I should make that a constant habit.” And then, with all the love in my heart I’d leave home and undoubtedly run into someone who was just plain mean. And man it’s hard to love mean people!

The verses that precede Luke 6:31 spell out the command “But to you who are wiling to listen I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you.”

That is some command!

It’s challenging to act loving and kind to someone who is hurling insults at you, or perhaps tells you what an idiot you are for believing the things you believe. Our natural instinct is to retaliate. If someone is unkind towards me, it’s not a big leap for me to want to be unkind towards them. But instead I’m supposed to pray for them? And do good towards them? Surely God jests!

But this wasn’t new information when Jesus spoke it in Luke 6. Proverbs 25:21 says, “If your enemies are hungry, give them food to eat. If they are thirsty, give them water to drink. You will heap burning coals of shame on their heads, and the Lord will reward you.” I think the Message Version sums up the intent of the whole “burning coals” analogy. “Your generosity will surprise him with goodness, and God will look after you.” Basically, the hater will be so astonished by the behavior of the loving person that he’ll be ashamed of his own behavior.

So, how can we love others?

I’m pretty sure God knows our natural instinct isn’t to love people who hurt or annoy us. That’s probably why Jesus spelled it out so clearly. But I don’t think God intends for us to do it alone. Here are some ideas I’ve come up with to help me through the times when I just want to punch someone (which probably wouldn’t hurt them anyway because I’m not very strong.)

  1. Pray. Ask the Holy Spirit to walk closely beside me and guard my lips and my mind.
  2. Remember that hurting people hurt people. When people are mean to me, it’s most likely because of something going on in their lives that has nothing to do with me.  
  3. Forgive. Forgiving a person who hurts me is hard but the truth is, if I don’t forgive him/her it’ll affect me far more than it affects him/her. I recently heard Lysa TerKeurst say that when she needed to forgive her husband for his unfaithfulness she would write down what he’d done on a piece of paper, cover it with a red cloth, and say, “I forgive _____for _____and whatever my feelings will not yet allow the blood of Jesus will surely cover.”
  4. Remember that your actions can escalate or deescalate a situation.

Who has God called you to love today?

God wants to help us love others. All we need to do is ask for his help . . . again and again.

Cover photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash