Doctor: “I see you’re over a month late for your appointment. Don’t you know that nervous disorders require prompt and regular attention? What’s your excuse?”
Patient: “I was just following your orders, Doc.”
Doctor: “Following my orders? What are you talking about? I gave you no such order.”
Patient: “You told me to avoid people who irritate me.”
Alan Smith recently shared this story in his Thought for the Day, which I’ve enjoyed reading for many years. He used it to introduce some thoughts on how to love someone who is difficult to love. “Unfortunately,” Alan observed, “we don’t always have the option of avoiding people who irritate us, people who hurt us, people who offend us. In fact, sometimes those who irritate us the most are found right in our home (or in our church building). So how should we deal with them?”
Alan answered the question by sharing a book by Milton Jones entitled “How to Love Someone You Can’t Stand” I haven’t read the book, but Alan recommends it and shares Jones’ six godly principles which are derived from Romans 12:
(1) Manage Your mouth — Bless and don’t curse (Rom. 12:14)
(2) Put yourself in the other person’s place and try to understand their feelings, thoughts and position (Rom. 12:15)
(3) Never, never, never take revenge (Rom. 12:17)
(4) Plan ahead to do something beautiful (Rom. 12:17)
(5) Don’t just win the war, win the peace (Rom. 12:18)
(6) Make room for God (Rom. 12:19)
“The bottom line,” Alan writes “is that we do not overcome evil with evil by retaliating and seeking to ‘get even’. The only way to overcome evil is with good (Rom. 12:21). It is never easy to respond to those who do us wrong in a way that is godly, but it is only by following the example of Jesus Christ that we can truly have an influence on the world around us.”
The thoughts both by Smith and Jones remind me of Peter’s exhortations whose epistles we’re currently studying at Hickman Mills.
“But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. 21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.” (1 Pet 2:20-21)
“But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed” (1 Pet 3:14)
Let me add this thought. If we’re truthful, how often do we find people who’ve never wronged us, who we ought to love, irritating and aggravating? Maybe they are socially inept. Or flawed with a bristly personality. Or not very bright. Or not very much fun. Or not very attractive! It’s so easy to gravitate to the winsome personality, the engaging conversationalist, and let’s be honest, the pretty face! And in so doing, to ignore the unlovely. The unlovable. And the unloved.
God calls us to a higher standard. A nobler motivation. A deeper love. It is love that looks beyond the surface. That delves into the heart and the soul. That sees the image of God in everyone. A love that doesn’t keep a record of wrongs. A love that forgives others their trespasses. A love that remembers how God loves me even when I have wronged him and have been unlovable.
How do you love someone you can’t stand? In short, look deep into their soul and see God’s love. In doing so, you will experience a new depth of spiritual love.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman