If anyone boasts, “I love God,” and goes right on hating his brother or sister, thinking nothing of it, he is a liar. If he won’t love the person he can see, how can he love the God he can’t see? The command we have from Christ is blunt: Loving God includes loving people. You’ve got to love both. (I John 4:20-21)
Let's take a moment to get honest with each other here, shall we? Do you think you are a pretty good person? Go ahead, answer that one honestly. If you answered affirmatively then a follow-up to that one is who do you NOT love? Who do you find yourself around that you kind of feel like you are just at opposite ends of the pole and you are forced to kind of like them so you can work with them, live nearby them, or perhaps even live with them in your own family/household? If you could name someone there, good! You are being honest with yourself and God. Now back to the one who answered they are a pretty good person. Who do you NOT love? Chances are it doesn't matter which end of the spectrum we find ourselves on today - good person or not so good - we all have at least one person that came to mind. Why? It isn't easy living with other people sometimes. It isn't easy for them to live with us either! We 'make do' in the circumstances of those relationships because we kind of feel forced to, as though we have no other choice. The truth of the matter is that we DO have a choice - to love them as God loves them, or continue to go on NOT liking them and showing very little of God's love toward them.
We ALL have issues with loving as God loves others - there is just no way around that one, my friends. We are going to be challenged by the things we don't 'like' in the other individual, forming some type of opinion of why they make the choices they make and why they act like they do. God never told us we had to 'like' others - he told us we are to love them the way he loves us. That equates to letting go of the opinions, extending grace when and where it is the least deserved, and then living as the example of God for them. Notice I did not say we live as the "Holy Spirit" in their lives - we aren't there to convict them of their short-comings. We are there to love them with the heart of God - the new heart we were each given the moment we said 'yes' to Jesus. Does it make their actions right? Not at all, but in our uncompromising love we reveal grace again and again even in the face of those 'wrong' actions. Does it make them 'lovable' individuals? Nope, but with God's love flowing through our veins, we are bound to find something lovable in them!
Take note - it isn't just that we are to love God - we are to love people, too. We have to love both. We love God with all our hearts and in time, we begin to see ways we can bring that love into each encounter with those 'unlovable' individuals we find in our path. Is it easy to love them? Nope, but God's grace has never failed to come through time and time again when we allow it to affect our lives at the core of our being. I imagine God emphasized the need to love both - him and others - because he knew it would be a struggle for us to do both. We don't always reveal we are loving God, do we? Some of our actions reveal we are still pretty concerned with our own lives, almost demanding to get our own way at times. We find it hard to submit to another - the very basis of love is laying down one's own agenda to meet the needs of the one we love. Isn't that what Christ did? He laid down his life so our sins could be forgiven - so we could have a new heart capable of loving even the unlovely. He loved us BEFORE we got that new heart, my friends. How can we do any less for those around us? Just askin....