You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
Friend to Friend
It is so much easier to love people who are just like me. I wish God’s commands lined up with the way I think. They don’t. In fact, they defy human logic altogether. We are not only to love our neighbor – which encompasses a world of messy people – but we are also to love our enemies and pray for people who rub us the wrong way. I call them sandpaper people.
Dan and I once lived in a neighborhood of predominantly retired people who quickly became surrogate grandparents, aunts, and uncles for our two children since both of our families lived several states away. The one exception was the older couple that lived behind us.
Let’s just say that the Smiths (names have been changed to protect the … uh, innocent) complained about almost everything Southerland.
Our kids were too loud.
Our dog barked too much.
Our friends came too often and were too noisy.
Our garbage can was six inches over their property line.
It was not unusual to find cryptic notes and warnings taped to our front door or wedged under the windshield wipers of our car. I not only considered them to be sandpaper people, but I thought of them as a nuisance as well. Just keeping it real.
In dealing with these neighbors, our children taught me an important lesson about the power of meeting a need in the lives of difficult people. It was not an easy lesson to learn or a lesson I even wanted to learn.
The Southerlands have many family Christmas traditions. When our two children, Jered and Danna, were young, we made Christmas cards for special friends and family members. Since we lived in South Florida, cold weather rarely ushered in the holiday season. I simply could not get past the idea that when Christmas rolled around, the grass was supposed to be brown – not bright green, and the climate was supposed to be cold – not hot and humid. Our solution was to turn the air conditioner on and lower the temperature until the house was cold enough to turn on the gas fireplace. Desperate times call for desperate measures.
We listened to Christmas music while baking sugar cookies and making our special Christmas cards. In the midst of one of those Hallmark moments, Jered looked up at me and said, “Mom, are we going to make them a Christmas card?” I had an idea who them was, but desperately hoped I was wrong. I wasn’t. “You know, Mom, the Smiths,” Jered went on to explain.
Being the spiritual giant that I am, I responded, “Son, why would you want to make them a Christmas card? They are mean!” How is that for loving your neighbor? But the Smiths had complained about something we were doing wrong every single day that week, and I had just about reached the end of any patience I had ever had with them.
“But Mom, I never see any kids at their house. Nobody ever comes to visit them … and they don’t even have a dog,” Jered insisted.
We made Christmas cards for the Smiths. But that is not all!
Trust me when I say that you do not want to miss the rest of this story in my next devotion! It is a doozy!
Father, Please forgive me for refusing to love the hard-to-love people in my life. Right now, I choose to let Your love flow through me as I deal with difficult people. Let me see them through Your eyes. Show me how I can meet a need in their lives, and please give me the wisdom and strength to meet that need.
In Jesus’ Name,
Now It’s Your Turn
Ask God to let you see one need in the life of someone you find hard to love. Ask Him to show you how to meet that need … and then do it.
Read and memorize Matthew 5:22-24. How does this passage of Scripture apply to your difficult relationships?
More from the Girlfriends
We all need help in dealing with difficult people … especially during the holiday season. Every relationship comes to our life with God’s permission and has a purpose that will help us grow and mature as a follower of Christ. Right now, thank God for what He is doing in your life through those tough relationships.
Start the New Year right by enrolling in Mary’s weekly Online Bible Study, Light for the Journey. If you join now, you will have access to all of 2015 lessons. But hurry! This offer ends December 11!