People can be really tough, can’t they? They can be obnoxious. And offensive. And sometimes downright creepy. Some people are just so abrasive to us that we’d rather do something super weird ourselves—like, I don’t know, crouch down behind a display of baked goods at a grocery store when we realize that annoying person is there—than to face interaction with them (whether or not this is something I’ve actually done I’ll leave up to your speculation).
Seeing the best in people that drive us crazy can be really difficult. It’s a lot easier to write them off when they do things we don’t like or agree with, drop them into the box labeled “people we don’t like,” and move on. Believing the best about the people we like the least takes hard work. It takes dismantling our cynical thoughts and extending grace—when it would be far easier in the moment to extend judgment or condemnation.
Following Jesus requires denying our desire to brush people off or to complain about them behind their backs, and to instead show them radical love. This isn’t a suggestion—it’s a command (“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” Luke 27-28). Jesus reminds his followers that everyone is good to those who are good to them: “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?” (Matthew 5:46). Loving people—even the ones who get on our nerves, or whose words and actions have offended us—is what differentiates us as people who live for Jesus and not for ourselves.
Wholly and Unconditionally
What does that mean, practically? Sometimes it means prioritizing being kind over being right. Or holding back that snarky comeback when someone says something offensive. It means reading that rude social media comment and withholding the searing response you’ve got in your head, and perhaps instead sending a text asking how that person is doing.
Jesus calls his followers to love others as he has loved us. That means wholly and unconditionally, even when we have been wronged. Jesus loved us even as he breathed his last breaths, hanging from a cross. The least we can do is extend grace to our grumpy family members and kindness to our unkind neighbors. Bob Goff says in Everybody Always, “Find a way to love difficult people more, and you’ll be living the life Jesus talked about… Find someone you think is wrong, someone you disagree with, someone who isn’t like you at all, and decide to love that person the way you want Jesus to love you.”
Whew. Well, when you put it that way, Bob. Loving others, always and unconditionally, means being absurdly gracious and outrageously kind, despite having been offended. Yes, it’s hard. Yes, there are easier ways to go about your life. But people who have been radically touched by grace gain a tremendous ability to respond in love, even to the people who get under their skin the most. It is our privilege as recipients of grace, and our responsibility as people tasked with turning the world upside down with love.