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Loving the Unlovable to Life

February 20, 2017

Years ago my wife and I had dear friend—a precious lady in her 90s who had served the Lord her entire life. Sadly, one of her sons had gone off the deep end morally, and it didn’t seem like there was any way of reaching him. It was the single biggest grief of her life. Every morning she began the day on her knees, begging God for her son’s restoration. Day after day, year after year, she prayed, but nothing happened.

One time she told us, as her health was rapidly failing, that all she wanted to do was be with Jesus, but she didn’t want to go until she knew her son had turned his heart to Him. Momma Fran, as we called her, passed away not long after that. Her son has never turned to Christ.

My wife and often wonder why her prayers seemed to have gone unanswered. In fact, we’ve often felt anger toward him for the grief he caused his mother.

But there’s another side to the discussion. While he may never turn his heart to Christ, his mother never, not even for a split second, quit loving and praying for him.

There is a reality that we as believers often live with. We want those whom we love to come to Christ and live their lives for Him. We want to be able to share that bond, and even more so, know that the bond of Christ is one that will last for eternity.

At the same time, there are those who we don’t love, those we don’t care about, even those we feel disdain (yes, even hatred) for, and frankly, their relationship with Christ doesn’t really matter so much to us.

Pray for terrorists who kill indiscriminately? Really? They deserve what they get. Love an adulterous relative? Never! The ruined their family. Show compassion to the one who abused me growing up. I’d rather spit on their grave.

You see, praying for those we care for and demonstrating the love of Jesus to them is quite natural. In fact, it’s often urgent for us, just as it was for Fran. But loving those who are less than lovable is an entirely different deal.

So let me offer some perspective that will hopefully help us to be more intentional in loving the unlovable.

First, we need to understand our own mess. The fact that we have been redeemed doesn’t change the truth that we are as deserving of eternal death as the people we may not be able to tolerate. But when we understand that we were saved from the same depth and the same fate that they face, it levels the playing field. It takes away any room for spiritual arrogance and helps us understand that they need a Savior just as much as we do.

Second, we need to learn to see people as Jesus sees them. I think we get some insight into this idea in the story of the prodigal son. That kid represented everything that was unlovable. He was selfish, arrogant, rebellious, immoral, etc. He was pretty much a laundry list of the things that we can’t stand in other people. But he was also something else. He was the precious son of a father who loved him and wanted him back.

When I look at people who I put on the “bad” side of my ledger, I’m failing to see them as God sees them. He doesn’t want them to perish. He’s not waiting for them with lightning bolts in hand, ready to strike. He wants them to be restored, redeemed and reconciled. So if that’s God’s heart for them, how can my heart for them be anything less? In truth, if I really want to honor God, it can’t.

Third, we need to understand the gravity of the situation if they don’t meet Jesus. Eternity is on the line here, friend. And while I’m not responsible for the choices the unlovable make, I am responsible for whether or not I choose to demonstrate His love to them. The Scripture is clear that the result of knowing Christ is eternal life, and the result of rejecting Him is eternal separation from Him. To use the common phrase, “That’s not a fate I would wish on my worst enemy.” But is that really true? We as followers of Christ need to grasp the gravity of the situation and love the unlovable the way Jesus does.

I get it. We turn on the news and see the headlines filled with people whom we think deserve hell, figuratively and literally. But Jesus came to seek and save even the most lost, depraved, evil, hateful individuals on the planet.

So here’s the challenge. This week dedicate yourself to praying for someone who is like the fingernails on your chalkboard of life. Whether it’s terrorists in a foreign land or a relative who has damaged your life, ask God to soften you heart. Ask Him to help you see them as He sees them. And ask the Lord to use you as an instrument of healing their life.

 

 

 


 

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Steve J.