Thursday, May 2, 2013

Loving the Unlovable

              It is hard to love the unlovable. I have heard that spoken so many times by fellow Christians. It is hard to love someone who doesn’t know the first thing about love. It is hard to love someone who is challenging, who is annoying, and who gets on your every last nerve. But love is what we are to be, and love is Who our God is. As I was praying this morning, praying for our nation, and our leaders, the word “longsuffering” came to my mind. The Lord is longsuffering toward us, that none of us should perish, and we are to imitate Him in every area of our life. So how do we love those who don’t love us, how do we suffer the sins of this world and not let our impatient and judgmental attitudes drive the unbelievers away?

                “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another; and forgiving one another; if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.” Colossians 3:12-13
                The word longsuffering wraps up in its meaning patience, endurance, steadfastness and forbearance. “It is an active response to opposition, not a passive response of resignation to the inevitable.” (Women’s Study Bible Notes NKJV) Our God is longsuffering towards us. While we disobey and rebel, His love and forgiveness is there, waiting for us to receive it. God is patiently waiting for the world to wake up and receive the invitation to Salvation that He has so freely given. But lately, I see less and less longsuffering and more and more opposition.
                Paul writes that we are to “put on” the listed qualities of tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, and longsuffering, forgiving the wrongs of others, because we too were forgiven by Christ Jesus. David Guziak writes, “Meekness shows how humility will affect my actions towards others; I will not dominate, manipulate, or coerce for my own ends, even if I have the power and the ability. Longsuffering shows how humility will affect my reaction towards others; I will not become impatient, short, or filled with resentment towards the weaknesses and sins of others.” We are to love the sinner, but hate the sin.

                When we are dealing with the unlovable, we must remember that Christ loved them first. He loved them so much that He died for them. The responses we give sometimes to those who are just so hard to live with can be harsh and anything less than loving. I have found myself so annoyed with someone that I have lashed out and rebuked them, hurting them and causing them to draw away from me and from Jesus, who I represent. Our world today needs to see and experience the longsuffering of God. We live in a world that is full of pride, lust, hate, and it is on the fast track to destruction. But the Bible tells us that God is longsuffering, not even desiring that one should perish. Should our hearts not have the same attitudes and desires towards longsuffering?
                Compassion is the emotional caring aspect of a relationship. It is soft and tender towards those who are hurting, who are walking down a dark and lonely path of sin and death. We tend to rebuke those in sin, rather than showing them the compassionate love that Christ has so dearly paid for. Kindness is quick to do good to others, even when they are undeserving of it. You did not deserve the kindness of God, the compassion of a loving Savior, but He has freely given it all to you. Should we not love as Christ loved? Should we not give as Christ gave? Should we not live as Christ lived? I know this world is harsh, and the sin is abounding more and more, but so much more should the love and longsuffering of Christ abound in us. This world, this nation we live in needs to see the longsuffering and compassionate love that God has for us. Jesus died for the sinner, not for the saint.

                Humility is not just a response, it is a position. Humility is a posture, an attitude of lowliness and servant hood. We should be a humble people, seeking to lift the needs of others before our own. Christ came to save the lost, and for sinners to repent. We are to be doing the same; seeking out the hurt, lowering our own esteem of ourselves for the sake of those who need Jesus so desperately, even if they refuse to accept Him. Meekness does not manipulate, it does not seek to make others do what it wants done. Meekness should encourage others to change and to live lives that no longer seek their own, but seek Christ and Christ alone.

                Longsuffering is the willingness to see others the way that Christ sees them. If we want to love as Christ loves, if we want to live for Christ, then longsuffering has to be one of the fruits clearly seen in our walks. Not just with the believers, but with the unbelievers as well. The longsuffering of God brought you to repentance. We need to give that same longsuffering to those who are outside, to those who are lost, and let the Lord lead them to repentance. God is daily rejected, He is daily abused and rebelled against, but His longsuffering love, His longsuffering mercy, and His longsuffering grace is extended to any and all who will accept it.

                We need to not look at the unlovable as unloved, but as loved. Christ died for them, just as He died for you. Whether Christian or Unbeliever, Christ died for once for all. “Christians who wish to lead a life worthy of the calling to which they have been called, are obliged, in imitation of their Lord, to forbear one another in love, with meekness, patience, that is they are to exercise calm patience under provocation, avoid resentment and retaliation, be slow to judge and punish, and be ever ready to forgive.” (Encyclopedia of the Bible)
                Slow to wrath, slow to judge, slow to pass punishment, for Christ has paid the price for the punishment of all sinners. We need to see that person that is unlovable as Christ sees them. That person that annoys the heck out of you, Christ died for them. That person that has hurt you, has caused you pain, forgive them, just as Christ has forgiven you. We need to walk in the same longsuffering that Christ has for us. Patiently enduring with one another in the bond of peace until the Lord Jesus comes to take us home. Imagine if our world saw the longsuffering and patience of our God through our daily lives. Then, maybe then, more sinners would come to repentance. It is His kindness that leads us to repentance, and His longsuffering is so that none shall perish.
                Let us put on longsuffering today, let us forbear with one another, even those who are walking in the world, and not with Christ. Let us show them Christ’s love and longsuffering and let us lift them up to God, and pray for His kindness to lead them to repentance and salvation. In Jesus Name, amen and amen.