“Lord, help me to love that person!”
Have you ever prayed that prayer? I have. Perhaps you prayed for help to love a difficult family member or friend. An irritating neighbor or co-worker. A fellow church member you just don’t get along with. Or perhaps it was for something even harder – help to love a person who had done you ill. Abused you. Neglected you. Betrayed you.
What do you want or expect when you ask the Lord to help you love that person? I know what I want. I want to feel warm fuzzies toward that person. I want all the difficulty associated with loving them to drop away so that I can love them without effort.
But is that realistic? Is that what love is about?
When I think about the model we have in Jesus – who left the courts of Heaven to come to Earth to love people who hated him, tortured him, and killed him – I imagine God rebuking me quietly:
“Learning to love isn’t about having warm fuzzies in your heart, my child. It is about forming a rod of iron in your soul.”
Hebrews 12:2-3 tells us about this kind of love. It encourages us to “fix our eyes on Jesus, the Pioneer and Perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him, he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
That is love. Love is not warm and fuzzy feelings. Love is a rod of iron: unbending and unbreakable in its determination to seek the best for the other person. Love is enduring. Love suffers willingly. Love does not grow weary or lose heart.
So, with Jesus in full view, let’s pray that prayer again: “Lord, help me to love that person – with your kind of love!”