Written By: Hannah Kittle
When I ask you the question, “Why should you love someone?” does that seem like a strange question? It seems like it would be common sense to love people, right? But what if I told you that that commandment also reaches out to loving those in our lives whom we would call unlovable for whatever reason. Maybe it’s that girl who said something that hurt us, that friend who talked about us behind our back, that guy who broke up with us for no apparent reason, that friend that we believed we had an honest, good relationship and it turned out to not be who we thought, that classmate who stole our work, that person we looked up to who we regarded as perfect and found out they weren’t. When I was challenged by listening to messages about love, I realized how far from loving I really truly was.
In English, when we say “love” we generally use it as a verb. So when we say verb, what do we mean? Verbs usually mean some kind of action is being taken. Merriam Webster says, “a word (such as jump, think, happen, or exist) that is usually one of the main parts of a sentence and that expresses an action, an occurrence, or a state of being.” An action, occurrence, state of being. Those are all things that we do. Those are all actions we perform. Those are the attitudes we have to each other. We have to love people by showing them kindness, patience, grace and mercy in the same way we’ve been given. When do we do this? We do this ALL the time. 100%, every second, minute, hour, day, week, and year.
Is loving easy? NO. But why? If it were easy, then we wouldn’t have to ask twice why we love people, even the difficult ones. So if loving is difficult why do we do it? Why do we keep going on even when it’s hard, painful, and discouraging? Ephesians 5:1-2 says, “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” We show love by forgiving others, standing up for the lost, defending the orphan and widow, and still loving others even when they hurt us. Loving isn’t just something that we need to do. Loving is something we’re called and ordered to do. Right in Ephesians it says that we are following the example of the Lord by walking in love towards one another. We walk in love toward one another by forgiving people.
How is loving people shown by forgiving them? Going back to Ephesians, it says that Christ loved us and gave His life for us. That’s cause and effect. His love caused Him to give His life for us. While the sacrifice we make isn’t as drastic as Christ’s, let’s think about some of the sacrifices we make when we love people. We sacrifice our time, energy, money, emotions, and hearts as we invest in relationships. As we invest in people and in relationships with them, we find out about their joys, strengths, pains, problems, worries, weaknesses, and personalities. As we grow closer to people we find that we are often the ones they lean on to help unravel the messes and we have to practice tough love as helping them through their struggles. Helping someone through their struggles is anything but clean, easy, and fun. Instead, it’s painful, messy, heart breaking, gut-wrenching, and just plain awful sometimes. So does that give us the license to simply shut down and never love anyone?
There’s a famous quote by C.S. Lewis that says, “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” Whoa, gut-punch, heart-stopping, earth-shattering moment right there. Did he just admit fully and warn us about being vulnerable and loving? Yes, he did. If anyone knew what it was like to love vulnerably, it was C.S. Lewis. He lost his mother at a young age and then his beloved wife to cancer at a young age. If anyone knows about heartbreak and wanting to never love again, it would be him. He was faced with the ultimate decision: either shut his heart down and never love anyone or anything again or use his pain and let it turn his love into something more beautiful and let it help so many others.
How does this quote apply to us? It gives us a powerful warning that yes, loving is hard. It is INCREDIBLY hard. BUT if we take a look at 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 this is what we read, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” These verses talk about how love is all of these incredible qualities yet we’re warned by C.S. Lewis that these things will be thrown back in our faces and trampled in the dust. How encouraging is that, right?
God says in the Bible, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13) God will put us into situations where we are required to love people that absolutely break our hearts by their words and actions. However, as promised by the verses He will not put us into positions that we cannot handle without His help. We were never meant to try and handle situations that are meant to be handled by God. He alone has a heart that is big enough to love unconditionally through it all.
You may be thinking and saying to yourself, “Hannah, this is all well and good, but you don’t know what I’ve gone through.” Sweet sister, you’re right. I don’t know the specifics, but I know your pain. Over the last year I’ve lost good friends, one who I thought would help me transition into college. I’ve had to learn to love and forgive those classmates who have tried to cheat off my homework. This semester, I’ve been faced more than ever before with those who profess Christ as their Lord and Savior and live a life in opposition to Him. Is it hard to love those people? Y.E.S. Do I struggle with regularly? Y.E.S. Why do I keep loving them and showing that by reaching out to them? Because, the same love that was extended to me by the God who personifies love is the same God Who loved enough to die for me and empower others to love me. As Christians we reflect love, God’s love, in a way that astounds the world. I pray that God will help us become loving women of God who make a difference by the way people see us love.