“When we pray for people who are hard to love, it becomes hard not to love them!”
Thoughts from daily Bible reading for today – February 22, 2021
But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. Matthew 5:44-45
When I don’t take the time to care and pray for other people, my entire focus tends to be on their imperfections. But with that kind of focus, I can’t have much impact on their lives. Seeing their imperfections as an opportunity to love Jesus through them makes all the difference.
In Matthew 25, Jesus tells His disciples that when He is again in heaven, He will separate people like sheep on His right and like goats on His left. To the sheep He’ll say, “I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me” (verses 35-36). Confused, the people will ask when they did those things for Him, and He’ll tell them, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (verse 40).
His conclusion is stunning: those who care for others in practical ways care for Jesus—and they will be blessed. Our acts for “the least of these” show our love for Jesus because we see Jesus in them. Seeing Jesus in others changes the way we view them—no longer as distractions, problems or interruptions but as human beings deserving of our love and care. What we do for others is a direct reflection of how much love we have for Jesus. If we decide to love other people the way we love Jesus, we’ll see them through new eyes—eyes of love. Real love sees Jesus in others.
Perhaps more than anything, prayer is what helps me cross the bridge from annoyance to love. It’s not uncommon for me to catch myself thinking poorly about another person, and sometimes I even get angry with someone for their insensitivity toward me or someone I love. But when I start to pray for them, the anger and annoyance begin to melt away. I often begin to see the bigger picture—how their hurts have caused them to act the way they do—and then I can pray for the healing of those hurts rather than stewing on how I think they’ve offended me.
Prayer is a game changer. It helps me let go of my hang-ups and lift up others’ needs. When I pray for people who are hard to love, it becomes hard not to love them!
Whom do you find difficult to love? Replace judging with loving. Look at that person through eyes of compassion and concern. Maybe he’s stuck in a crazy cycle of hurt from a childhood trauma that fuels his unhealthy emotions. Maybe she feels desperate and misunderstood and unloved, so she acts out in ways that drive others away. When we try to really understand people we find difficult to love, it becomes hard to hold on to our negative feelings about them.
As Henri Nouwen wrote: To die to our neighbors means to stop judging them, to stop evaluating them, and thus to become free to be compassionate. Compassion can never coexist with judgment because judgment creates the distance, the distinction, which prevents us from really being with the other.
Prayer for those hard to love helps us begin to really understand others and see the best in them.
“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people” (Ephesians 1:17-18).
Heavenly Father, help me pray for this hard to love friend, so our hearts will turn to you in faith and love, through Christ and in His name I pray, amen.
Who do I need to stop judging and start loving?
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