“Little children, let us stop just saying we love people; let us really love them, and show it by our actions.” 1 John 3:18

Loving God and “Loving your neighbor” are Jesus’ primary messages. And this verse reminds us to go beyond lip service and back up our convictions with actions. But what about those troublesome people in your life? You know them--the ones that get on your “last nerve.” The ones who are harsh, impossible to please, constantly negative and just plain exasperating. And how about the ones whose words or actions can be downright cruel and hurtful?

Now I have to admit, I struggle with this one. Face it, some people just make it difficult to love them. So how DO you love those who appear to be unlovable? The last line in 1 John gives us some wise insight, “Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts.”    1 John 5:21

For me, that sums things up rather well--”keep away from ANYTHING that might take God’s place”. Anger, resentment, hatred, jealousy, bitterness, and even things like annoyance, irritability, impatience, and frustration, put us into a state where we are momentarily separating ourselves from God. He is taking a back-seat to our emotions. When you purposely step out of the environment of PEACE where God dwells, then you are taking a step away from God.

We have a responsibility to share God’s love with others. And usually, that love is freely accepted, appreciated and returned. But occasionally, we run into a few people who are so lost, so unhappy, and even at times, so evil; that they reject our attempts at love, time after time. Sometimes, these people may happen to be in our own families.

When Jesus gave the disciples his instructions for going out into the world and sharing the Gospel, he reminded them, “A prophet is honored everywhere except in his hometown and among his relatives and by his own family.” Mark 6:4

So if you feel rejected, misunderstood and even abused, you are not alone. Families have been hurting one another since the beginning of time--remember Cain and Able? God doesn’t call you to stay in a situation where you are being ridiculed and traumatized. And he doesn’t want your connections to others to be characterized by strife and tension.

Jesus went on to authorize the disciples to leave the place where they weren’t welcome: “Any city or home that doesn’t welcome you--shake off the dust of that place from your feet as you leave.” Matthew 10:14

This practice harkens back to the ancient Jewish custom of leaving behind impurities when they were traveling among the “lost”. So Jesus’ reference to it has several symbolic interpretations. One is not allowing those who reject God to exert any influence over you, and the other is to leave behind the negativity that surrounds your interactions with them--the frustration, the pain, the anger, the rejection, etc.

So I believe that the lesson for us in our modern world is this: We are called to love, but sometimes we may have to do that from afar. You can love someone and not subject yourself to constant interaction with them. It is okay to “unplug” occasionally and limit the amount of time you spend with someone who causes you such anxiety that it supplants God’s place in your heart and mind. And when you step away from them, be sure to leave the anger, resentment, bitterness, etc., behind as well. “Shake off the dust” of negative energy and emotions so that you can remain in a state of Peace and Love, centered upon God.

If you do not leave behind the emotions associated with this person, then you are still letting them take God’s place in your life. And by doing so, they are continuing to control your thoughts, words, feelings, and behaviors. You can’t “love” someone with your “actions” if your emotions are not in a state of love and peace.

So what CAN you do? Well, never forget--the most POWERFUL thing you can do for anyone is to PRAY for them. Praying for someone also happens to be the most LOVING thing you can do for them. So when John instructs us to show our love by our actions, we can “love the unlovable” with our Prayers. We can try to see them from God’s eyes. We can make sure that we do not allow our own negative emotions and actions to push God out of our own hearts and minds. We can remain in a state of Peace about the situation, KNOWING that God is well-aware of our difficulties and is at work, whether we see the results or not. Our place is NOT to change others, rather--it is to change OURSELVES.

So, while “loving thy neighbor” may not always be easy, we don’t have to do it alone, without guidance and support. We have the LIGHT of Christ’s example, the POWER of the Holy Spirit and the GRACE of God to support our journey.

Anyone who says he is walking in the light of Christ but dislikes his fellow man, is still in darkness.” 1 John 2:9

Deborah J. Thompson          reflecting@me.com

Christian Writer, Speaker, Artist, Stephen Minister, Stephen Leader

Her articles are published on Crosswalk.com and “The Fish”. She shares

“Reflections on Life, Relationships, Family and Spiritual Growth on her website: www.InspiredReflections.info

How Do You Love the “Unlovable”? ©