I tried not to let it bother me, but the truth is, it did.
It was recently brought to our attention that some not-so-nice things were being said about our family, by someone that we once called a friend.
It shouldn’t have surprised me.
We had suspected that this was the case. Rumors have a way of making their way back to the person they’re targeting, after all. Yet being privy to this fact, didn’t make the arrow sting any less.
I tried to brush it off, pretending that I didn’t care. But that only went so far.
Over the next few days, as the hurt sunk deep, my spirit became agitated- negatively affecting both my sleep and my thought life.
I called a friend to vent.
It was good to be heard, supported and encouraged. But those feelings only lasted so long.
I needed help. The kind of help that can only come from someone who has been in my shoes.
So I turned to Jesus.
Please understand that I’m in NO way comparing my plight with that of our Savior’s.
Nothing comes remotely close to the suffering that He endured.
However, scripture does tell us:
“Since He Himself has gone through suffering and testing, He is able to help us when we are being tested.” (Hebrews 2:18 NLT)
“He was despised and rejected- a man of sorrows and acquainted with deepest grief.” (Isaiah 53:3 NLT)
Knowing that Jesus is familiar with the same kind of trials that we face, helps me feel intimately connected to Him on a more personal level.
He knows how I feel, because He has been there. Furthermore, ONLY He alone has successfully responded to suffering and testing, with nothing less than love and grace.
If anyone could help me to do the same, it was Him.
Maybe you can relate?
Perhaps you too have been the subject of the local rumor mill.
Maybe you’ve been the brunt of a cruel joke, or the juicy topic around the office water cooler.
Perhaps you’ve been lied about, gossiped about, or treated with disdain.
Chances are, if you’ve lived long enough, you too have experienced the deep hurt that comes from being treated poorly by those around you. Sometimes those closest to you.
The good news is Jesus shows us a way to respond to the “unlovely” people in our lives, through His Word.
Let’s face it- we all have them. The question is- how will we respond to them?
How to Love the Unlovely
As I turned to the Lord in my desperate time of need, I gently heard him whisper, “Rachel, I have called you to love. Love does not discriminate. Love is all-inclusive. That INCLUDES your enemies.”
Ironically, news of the hurtful words being spoken about our family, reached our ears shortly after I had prayerfully received my focus word for the year- LOVE.
I guess I was about to get a lesson in love, right outta the gate!
As I considered further the command to love our enemies, I naturally turned to the Word of God for instruction. There, in the 6th chapter of the book of Luke, I discovered that God has given us a practical manual on how to love our enemies.
Perhaps you will find it helpful too!
“But to you who are willing to listen, I say love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you.” (Luke 6:27)
In other words- treat others the same way we hope to be treated. This can be difficult to do, especially if we are being treated poorly.
Why would anyone want to do good to someone who has treated them unfairly? Well, simply put- because we are told to.
Our feelings don’t always have to match our actions- so long as we are obedient. I have found that God often changes my heart in the process.
It’s helpful to remember that the Lord alone is responsible for the outcome. As believer’s, we are simply called to obedience.
Prayer~ Lord, guide me. Show me how to do good to those whose treatment of me is less than stellar. Give me your strength to do the right thing, even if my heart doesn’t want to. And change me in the process. Help me to rise above, and show kindness, even if undeserved. Let me be an example of unconditional love. Amen.
2. Speak Blessing.
“Bless those who curse you.” (Luke 6:28)
The practice of speaking blessing over those who consistently curse you to others, can prove to be challenging, to say the least.
It’s hard to speak good of someone that you know is not doing the same for you, but with Jesus all things are possible.
Perhaps starting small is best. By choosing- moment by moment, as necessary- to refuse to speak negatively about another person, we are exemplifying Jesus to a watching world. And you’d better believe that the world IS watching!
Prayer~ Lord when someone lashes out at me with hateful and unkind words- whether to my face, or behind my back- help me to respond in love. Empower me, by your Holy Spirit, to speak blessing over those who curse me. Let me be reminded that your Word says, “the power of the tongue can bring death or life” (Proverbs 18:21), and give me the strength to speak words of life. Amen.
3. Pray for Them.
“Pray for those who hurt you.” (Luke 6:28)
Praying for our enemies is slightly different than blessing our enemies.
Blessing someone is done by publicly speaking exhortation to, or about, a particular individual.
Praying for someone is most often- but not restricted to- having a private conversation with God, about an individual.
A blessing bestows, whereas a prayer requests.
Praying for those who have hurt us may be difficult at first, but when we continue in this practice- even if through gritted teeth initially– our prayers will eventually become sincere, and we will discover that we actually mean the prayers we pray!
Prayer~ Father, today I lift up ___ to you, and I ask that you would meet their every need. You know them far better than I ever will. You know what their greatest needs consist of, and you alone are able to meet that need. When the hurt in my heart rises, grant me the wisdom to see this person as you see them- with spiritual eyes- not earthly ones. And help me to forgive- whether or not they ever say they’re sorry- because you have always forgiven me. Amen.
4. Go Above and Beyond
“If someone slaps you on the cheek, offer the other cheek also. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt too.” (Luke 6:29)
Going above and beyond the norm does not come naturally to us. We have to choose to be the difference we want to see.
If we return evil with evil, rest assured the cycle of vengeance will fail to cease. A harsh word begets a harsh word.
Until someone makes a conscious choice to rise above the retaliation, the madness will continue.
The best way to put out a fire, is to stop feeding it. In other words- Cease fire. Go the extra mile. Kill them with kindness. Refuse to give hatred the upper hand. Repay evil with love.
This is not passivity, rather it is an act of selflessness. A surrendering of your “right” for revenge.
Prayer~ Lord, help me to remember that “a gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1). When everything inside of me wants to retaliate, give me the strength that I need, to refrain. Let me be an example of selfless love to those around me who are hard to love, by being willing to go above and beyond the norm, in the name of Jesus. Amen.
5. Without Expectation.
“Lend to them without expecting to be repaid.” (Luke 6:30)
To give without expectation of receiving something in return is an act of sacrificial love in its purest form. It says I am going to show you love even if you don’t deserve it. Even if you won’t return the favor.
Unconditional love gives without expecting anything in return.
Simple acts of love can go a long way. A smile, an thoughtful act, an unexpected compliment. Pray about how you might be able to show love to those who are demanding and unkind, without the expectation of reciprocation. It might be awkward and uncomfortable at first, but press on, warrior!
Prayer~ Father God, you have shown us how to love selflessly and unconditionally, through the sacrificial gift of your beloved son. Help me to love those who have hurt me- not because I expect to gain anything in return- but simply because this is how you have loved me. When it becomes too hard for me, fill me with your precious Holy Spirit, who gives freely without measure. Amen.
6. Be Compassionate.
“Be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.” (Luke 6:36)
Sometimes it helps to view our enemies as broken, human, hurting people in need of healing.
The dictionary describes compassion as having deep sympathy or sorrow for another who is stricken with misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.
Compassion goes beyond just feeling sorry for someone. Compassion is a strong desire to alleviate their pain. To remove the burden. To bring an end to the suffering.
Compassion motivates us to DO something. The Father’s compassion towards His children, compelled Him to send His one and only son to a hurting, dying world.
What might compassion be asking of YOU?
Prayer~ Lord, help me to love with abandon- recklessly, selflessly, obediently, unconditionally. Fill my heart with compassion. Remind me that very often when someone is behaving in a way that is unlovely, it’s usually the result of a festering wound, in need of a savior’s touch. Help me to be a voice of compassion, acceptance and love to a hurting world today. Compel me to SHOW compassion to those around me- including those who have hurt me. Amen.
How About You?
Have you had an opportunity to exercise God’s instruction to love our enemies recently?
Might He be compelling you to do so today?
I’d love for you to share your story in the comments below!
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