How many times have you heard or said, “But I don’t feel like it!” I don’t think I can even count and I really hope there’s not an ongoing tally somewhere. We will never always feel like loving others. I’m sure it will be difficult. Even people pleasers can be annoying sometimes, but God is greater than our hearts (1 John 3:20).
This year, God has shown me a lot about loving those around me and given me practice to boot! (Did I ask for patience and compassion or something?) Through 1 John 3, wisdom from friends, and most importantly, the help of the Holy Spirit, some basic insights to love those that are hard to love have been realized.
First of all, pray for it. It’s God’s will for us to live in peace and unity. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us which is, lay[ing] down our lives for our brothers (1 John 3:23, 16). And we know that if we pray in His will, He will answer it. Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us*, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him (1 John 3:21-22). We can also pray for the person and pray for ourselves. If you need to complain about that person, go to God. He already knows what’s in your heart and it would be better for it to go to Him than someone else. But once you get it out, pray blessings on the person. Pray that God would reveal Himself and His will to you both and to draw closer to Him.
Second, you have to believe it’s possible. When you’re setting out to achieve some kind of goal, a work-out, a job, school, getting along with someone, do you notice a difference in the outcome if you truly believe it can be achieved and when you don’t think it’s possible? I definitely do. I’ll use it as an out when things are getting difficult. Well, it never could have happened anyway. With God, all things are possible (Luke 1:37). He created this planet, planets we’ve never seen, and the universe. Creating peace between you and someone else isn’t too big of a task for Him. But it’s never going to happen if you don’t believe that. We have to believe He can bring peace to any situation, that even when it seems impossible, it’s not too hard for Him.
Third, fake it till you make it. My heart does not change with space or distance from a situation. Sure you need time to clear your head and work it out with God, but I’m not going to learn how to love somebody if I stay away from them. For me, I have to actively love if I’m going to get over my feelings. Pray for them, send them an encouraging note, instead of avoiding them, approach them and show interest in what’s going on in their lives. I’m not promoting false sincerity. But like it said earlier, we are commanded to love and He is bigger than our hearts, so we obviously won’t feel like loving everyone all the time, but you just have to love anyway and believe it’ll get better.
Fourth, focus on the future, not the past. All of the points have been directed at myself, but this one is the biggest. I have a good memory. I remember details, conversations, and events. This good memory has also made it easy for me to remember wrongs done to me and I have been a bit of a grudge holder. OK, not just a bit. When I was 8, I was at a family vacation and at night all of the cousins went out to catch frogs. This did not interest me, so I hung out by myself and a few of my extended family members encouraged me to go out and hunt some frogs and I refused. So years later before family gatherings, in true teenager fashion, I would complain to my mom they all think I’m an outsider and they’ve always thought that. (Dramatic much?) And she would just say, you need to let that go. Let. It. Go. It’s so embarrassing, and I’m sharing it to say, look how ridiculous it is. It’s not even a big deal and I used it for years. I don’t want a memory of not wanting to frog hunt to keep me from loving and having fun with my family. Does it even compare? So as Paul says, “[Forget] what is behind and [strain] toward what is ahead” (Philippians 3:13). Let yesterday go and focus on today. What can be done to move forward and not look back?
He wouldn’t command us to love one another if we couldn’t do it. With every command is a promise that we have the ability when we are filled by the Spirit and longing to obey. God doesn’t set us up for failure. Yes, in our flesh, we stumble and fall and sometimes just crawl or barely roll into obedience, but if that’s what He wants from us and what we want for ourselves, He will enable us to do it.
But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9
*I looked at some commentary for when the phrase “our hearts condemn us”. The meaning of the phrase is when we have the feeling of a guilty conscience. So this situation would be when we’ve done something, confessed it, and still feel guilty. When our hearts stop condemning us is when we believe that whatever we did is forgiven and washed away by the blood of Jesus because “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9