Loving the Unlovable
Are there people in your life these days that you’re having a hard time liking? Maybe a a co-worker or neighbor, a classmate or teammate, even a friend or family member? The truth is, sometimes we have people in our lives we may not like very much; but even when you don’t like them very much, could you love them? That might sound like an odd question, yet it’s at the heart of a vital lesson in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.
In Matthew 5:38-42, Jesus instructed us to not retaliate against someone who has treated us wrongly or unfairly or unjustly, which is not easy. In fact, it goes against everything we may want to do instinctually and naturally. Jesus, called us to “turn the other cheek” or “go the extra mile” or even “to give the shirt and coat” off our backs for those whom we would rather not. Jesus teaches us to not respond with vengeance, but instead with mercy and grace.
But what He calls us to in the verses that follow (Matthew 5:43-48), goes even farther; it is a call to love even our enemies, who may seem unloveable to us. Augustine said, “Many have learned to offer the other cheek, but do not know how to love him by whom they were struck.”
As radical as it may sound to us to turn the other cheek to someone who has just backhanded us, it is a far greater call to actually love that person. Some may say, “I’m tapping out on that one; I can’t do it, or I won’t do it.” But the reality is, that Jesus taught us to do just that, and in fact, He modeled it for us, all the way to the cross, and even on the cross, as He prayed for those who persecuted Him.
This is hard teaching. It is radical, counter-cultural and some might say, seemingly impossible; but it is absolutely doable, when we’re empowered by God at work in us.
Maybe you’re struggling today because you’ve been hurt by someone in the past, maybe even this week. And to be honest, you hate them for what they did to you. That hatred may be overwhelming you in a lot of ways. It may have even turned to bitterness; it has pained you emotionally and has strained you spiritually.
Maybe you’re harboring animosity toward someone. Maybe you’re struggling to love someone who to you seems irredeemable or simply unlovable. My guess is that all of us have people in our lives who we have a hard time liking, and especially loving. So what does Jesus teach us about that?
God wants us to love even those who may seem unlovable to us.
How do we do that? Jesus followed up his tough teaching on non-retaliation, turning the other cheek; going the extra mile; giving the shirt and coat off your back; and even loaning to someone who may never pay you back, with another very tough teaching, loving your enemy or the seemingly unloveable in your life.
To learn far more about what Jesus means with this command, why He expects it and how to actually do it, click here to listen to: Sermon on the Mount - Part 6 - Loving the Unloveable.