There are days when I would love nothing more than to throw my bible off a cliff. A really high cliff.
Let’s be real. Sometimes I don’t like what the bible says. However, just because I don’t like it, doesn’t mean that it’s wrong. The bible commands me to do things that I don’t always want to do, and the reason I don’t want to do those things is probably because performing them often requires a significant amount of humility and/or courage.
Forgive. Love. Be kind. Be honest. Confess. Let go. Wait.
Those things are tough.
Loving people that you don’t want to love is especially hard. I may not have a husband to experience this truth with yet, but I do have a mom and a dad. Just ask my mom about all of the “lovely conversations” we’ve had from across the house when I was a teenager (I dare you). There were moments when my mom and I desperately wanted to send each other on a one-way trip to the tropical island called “Stop Giving Me Such A Hard Time.” Maybe you’ve heard of it? It’s only 200 miles from the “Because I Said So” Rainforest. Despite those rough patches, there were plenty of moments when loving my family was easy. It came naturally and flowed out of me without a second thought, and those are the moments I cherish the most.
My boss from Ambassadors Football, Ben Marais, spoke about what it meant to love one another while we were hosting a bible study in prison this past week. During the study, he did something so simple, and yet so incredibly profound. Ben broke down the word “another.” Instead of solely identifying the word as a reference to “an additional person or someone of the same type,” he challenged us to think of the word as “an other.” Someone who is different from us in one or multiple ways, someone we may not agree with, and/or someone who may not even like us.
For example, it’s really easy to love my little brother Brian because he’s just like me (sorry mom, I feel your pain) but in lanky boy form. We both enjoy playing video games, watching sports with Dad, drinking Starbucks coffee with mom, playing practical jokes on our unsuspecting sister Melissa, and laughing over the fact that Grandma is so terrible at texting. Loving him doesn’t take much effort.
But what about loving a friend who “stabbed you in the back” or the boyfriend who cheated on you? What about loving the racist who lives next door or the Christian with the cardboard sign on the street condemning everyone to hell? What about loving your opponents on the soccer field or the kid who broke into your car and stole your favorite handbag?
The Bible doesn’t just say to love those who are easy to love, the Bible also says to love your neighbor (which is everyone), to love your enemies including those who persecute you, and (drumroll please) to love each and every person as you love YOURSELF. Yep. It says that. I’m dead serious. You won’t find that in the Book of Sam’s Opinion’s 4:2. You can find it in Matthew 22:37-39, John 13:34-35, and Matthew 5:44.
When I love myself, I don’t hesitate. It’s practically reflexive in the sense that I don’t have to second guess what I am doing or why I am doing it. If I am hungry then I will eat, if I am tired then I will sleep, and if I am bored then I will watch a movie or sketch.
So what does this mean in the life of Sam? It means that if I see the girl who “wronged me” on the side of the road in desperate need of a lift, then I will immediately pull over and welcome her into my car (instead of speeding past her in raging fury). Not because she does or doesn’t deserve it, not because I am trying to make her feel guilty for how she hurt me, and not because I am trying to prove what a wonderful person I am. None of the above. I do it because Jesus commands me to. If God is love (1 John 4:7-8), then I have the opportunity to share Him with anyone and everyone I meet through what I say and what I do. Since His love is powerful enough to shine through the broken cracks of my life, stifling it would mean hindering another from being able to experience God through me in a beautiful way.
Quick reminder to all of my fellow imperfect human beings out there: I will fail. There will be days when it may take me a lot longer to love or forgive, and there will be days when I don’t do it at all, but that’s what grace is for. It’s also a great reminder that even when my love fails, God’s never will.
So as I enter into every situation, I will strive to love with an open heart and without fear because I am reminded that in my “unlovable moments,” God never stopped loving me.