How to Respond when “Love One Another” Isn’t Easy

10 Ways to Respond when "Love One Another" isn't easy!

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Let’s face it: “Love One Another” isn’t always easy.

10 Ways to Respond when "Love One Another" isn't easy!

Relationships are hard and as much as technology has given us more ways to connect, it’s also given us more ways to miscommunicate or be misinterpreted.  Yesterday my Sunday School class studied several verses from Romans 12:

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one for evil, but give though to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, as far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

Romans 12:9-18 ESV

In the course of our discussion, my friend Marguerite said this, “It seems to me that we want to go to ‘as far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all’ and say we’ve done what we can in difficult situations. But I think we can only rest in that if we’ve done everything else it says before.”

Um, ouch.

Maybe you have a difficult relationship in your life right now. Maybe it’s one you’ve been struggling with for years. Maybe it’s a friend. Maybe it’s family.

I know is this: it’s hard to love some people. Especially when “some people” have hurt us or betrayed us.

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But I also know this: Marguerite was right.  As much as we want to walk away from the hard relationships and leave it at, “I tried,” God is calling us to something far harder—but far more like Him.

Earlier this year I read A Loving Life: In a World of Broken Relationships by Paul Miller. I think I underlined half the book. Seriously. In his exegesis on the book of Ruth and how we learn to love like Jesus from the story of Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz, I was challenged and convicted about so many areas in my life.

In a chapter about “Committed Love,” Miller writes:

Hesed love loves in opposition to our feelings.  Love like this strips us of self-will and purifies our motivations. It is surprisingly liberating because we’re not trapped by either our feelings or the other person’s response. When neither preserving the relationship nor our feelings are central, we’re free to offer the other person a rich tapestry of love. (62)

Hesed is the steadfast love of God, rooted in His covenant relationship with us. And we are called to the same type of love for one another. Not just loving when it’s easy or convenient—but learning to love beyond ourselves and even the other person. Loving others because they too are created in the image of God and because He commands us to do so.

Hesed isn’t easy. In fact, it’s impossible on our own. Only the Spirit at work inside us can accomplish true hesed love. But this is exactly what we need in order to love the difficult people, to stay in a friendship when it would be easier to go, to push through the hard seasons of marriage.

So how do we do it? What does it look like when we choose to love one other, even when it isn’t easy?

Paul gives  us 10 specific actions for loving others, whether it’s easy or not.

  1. Love openly. Far too often, we love with closed hearts. We don’t reach out and let love guide our actions and our words. Loving openly is best described in 1 Corinthians 13.
  2. See good. Y’all, this one gets hard. But Paul tells us to “hold fast to what is good” (v. 9). Recently, I’ve been reminded how important it is to look for the good in others and choose to focus on those things rather than the negatives.
  3. Esteem others. Paul writes, “Outdo one another in showing honor” (v. 10). Several years ago a wise friend gave me good counsel in dealing with a very difficult relationships.  She urged me to look for ways to honor the person who had hurt me, to pray for that person’s success and growth, and to become an encourager for that person. While doing so did not “fix” the relationship, it did help me learn to love the person regardless.
  4. Serve gladly.  When we allow our joy to motivate the way we serve, our focus is rightly placed on God rather than ourselves.
  5. Pray constantly.  Paul reminds us to pray without ceasing in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 but in this passage, he prefaces his admonition for constant prayer by telling us to rejoice in hope and be patient in tribulation.  Our steady prayers must be rooted in the hope and joy we have in Christ regardless of the difficulties we face.
  6. Live generously. Learning to hold all we have loosely and to remember what we have is from God and given to use for others helps us live with generous hearts.
  7. Walk closely.  We are called to come alongside others.  If we are not walking closely with the people God has placed in our lives, how can we ever rejoice or mourn with them? I’ve often heard it said, “Hurt people hurt people.” Perhaps those who are difficult in your life need you to stay close more than you know. Far too often, we move away when others really need us to pull close.
  8. Choose humility. It’s hard to esteem others higher than ourselves. And it’s hard not to want people to notice when we are wronged. But Jesus is our best example of choosing humility.  When He was wrongly accused and no one stood beside Him, He said nothing. He didn’t act when He could have, didn’t force His way. It isn’t easy.  And it certainly isn’t fun. One of the passages I’ve really come to lean into is Philippians 2:1-11.
  9. Extend grace. Twice in the past week I’ve reminded people what a gift it is to give another person the benefit of the doubt.  Instead of assuming it’s all about us, what if we learned to step back and evaluate the words or actions of another in light of all we know about his or her character?  What if we made the choice NOT to take things personally and to give grace?
  10. Pursue peace. We are called to the “ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18). Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9). Sometimes we can’t be reconciled to another … but we must make every effort to do so. Our desire must be to live in peace with all people.

One of the most difficult parts of living in a broken world is dealing with broken relationships.

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Last week in a conversation with someone precious to me who is facing a very hard situation, I encouraged her {and me!} to remember this: Our enemy isn’t the other people in our lives! Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal, to kill, and to destroy.”  Satan wants to destroy not just our relationship with God but also our relationships with others.  We must remember, even in the most difficult relationships, our enemy isn’t flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12).

So friends, I want you to know, I’m there in the trenches with you! I have one or two hard relationships in my life right now and I am daily seeking wisdom and guidance from the Lord. It isn’t easy, but we are not alone!

xo,

Teri Lynne

How do you navigate the hard relationships in your life?

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10 Ways to Respond When “Love One Another” Isn’t Easy

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