I recently went on an overnight church trip with my youngest daughter. I spent the night in a cabin with four giggling girls. While we were laying out sleeping bags, one of the girls wanted to know how she was supposed to love someone who had hurt her mom. Nothing like starting the evening with a tough question.
The easy answer to that question is "Ask God to help you." That sounds easy, but when someone has hurt us, our natural instinct is not to reach out to them in love. We don't want God to help us love that person, we want God to punish them, and we want them to hurt like we hurt.
This little girl wanted to know why she should forgive this person. That didn't make any sense to her. Loving and forgiving someone who has hurt us or one of our family members is hard. Even with God's help, it's difficult.
Yet, Jesus said, "A new command I give you: Love one another." (John 13:34) Three simple words. Love one another. He didn't say, "Love those who love you" or "Love the people you like." He said "Love one another." That includes the people who have hurt you, the people who rub you the wrong way and the people who are out to get you. We are to love them.
The only way we can do that is with God's help. We can't love everyone on our own. Some people simply seem unloveable. We don't like their actions. We don't like the way they treat us. Yet, we are to love them.
Loving others in spite of the hurt they inflict or the poor choices they make requires a change in in the way we see them. We have to begin to see them through God's eyes and not our own. That person that hurt you is also God's masterpiece. Jesus died for him, too. When we put on God's eyes, we begin to see others as loveable.
Loving the unloveable also requires a change of heart. We have to let God fill us up with His love so that love can overflow onto others. We simply don't have enough love on our own to love those who have hurt us.
Illustrate these concepts for your kids.
- Get a pair of glasses that change the way things look -- 3D glasses or glasses that distort everything. Have your kids put on the glasses and ask them to describe how things look. Explain that God wants us to love everyone. But we can only do that if we change our perspective on people. Talk with your kids about asking God to help them see others as He sees them -- as His own masterpieces who are worthy of the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross.
- Get a cup, a bowl and a pitcher of water. Place the cup in the bowl. Put Lego people in the bowl. Explain to your kids that the cup is their heart and the Lego people are all the people who have hurt them or who are difficult to love. Pour water in the cup until it's 3/4 full. Explain that the water is our love. We don't have enough on our own to reach those people that are hard to love. Pour enough water into the cup that it overflows onto the Lego people. Explain that when we let God fill us up with love, His love will overflow onto all those around us, including those who we have a hard time loving on our own.
God commands us to love others, not because it's easy, but because it gives the world a picture of who He is. Every time we love someone who seems unloveable, we free our hearts from bitterness and we become a physical picture of who God is. And you never know when that will make a difference to someone else.