I wrote earlier about how our love for someone—a parent, spouse, child—tends to make us speak in absolutes about them. Often, when we hear these accolades, we might think the person is perfect and view ourselves, our spouse, or our kids, as even more imperfect. We/They don’t measure up. Yet, when we understand that it is grace that is at work here, we can begin to understand how God views us and be more secure in the knowledge that he loves us and views us as if we were perfect (if we are in a relationship with Jesus).
However, just as accolades tend to flow for people we love, so does condemnation of those whom we don’t love or value. And the descriptors we use are similarly absolute. Think of our political environment right now. Many Republicans hate Democrats and vice-versa. They refer to each other in very negative and absolute terms, such as “evil,” Nazis,” “crazy,” “racist,” among others. Just as we tend to be full of grace toward those we love and admire, we also are prone to withhold any grace to those toward whom we have no affinity.
Yet, the truth is that even if we don’t have love towards certain people, the Lord does. He wants “all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (I Timothy 2:4 NIV) This includes both those we love and those we hate or dislike very, very much. The fact is we are all sinners who fall short of the glory of God and are in need of grace and forgiveness. Thus, we are told to love others in the same way Christ loves us (Colossians 3:13)
Surely, this is a difficult task. It is so much easier to hate people and treat them with scorn. It is so much easier to think of our perceived enemies in black and white terms. That is why the Scriptures speak often of loving people who we are generally not inclined to love. When Jesus said, “If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles,” (Matthew 5:41 NIV) he likely had in mind Roman soldiers who made it a practice of having their subjects carry their gear as they were going from town to town. It is not likely his audience had already been doing that. And if that were not clear enough, he also said, “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:44 NIV)
While we may speak in absolutes about people we love because we speak out of love, we cannot speak in absolutes about those toward whom we have animosity. We must season our tongues with grace. Regardless of how you feel, it is not an option to withhold love and grace because your Lord does not do that. Every human being, regardless of what he or she has done, is loved by God and we are in error if we think we have a right to speak or treat them in unloving ways.
It is the Lord who will be their Judge and he will judge them rightly and fairly. Our command is to love them despite their sin. While that is a difficult order, through the Holy Spirit, it is indeed possible. May we as followers of Jesus view those we hate and dislike through his loving eyes, and may our actions toward them demonstrate that.
© Jim Musser 2019