I applied to NeighborLink for the summer intern position for two reasons;
1. I genuinely love doing service projects and
2. I also really enjoy working with people.
But, I have a confession… sometimes loving other people just isn’t that easy for me. Actually, there are many times I have had to push through to put on that “Jesus face” and many other times I should have but did not. Relevant Magazine published an article yesterday about loving those who are hard to like (link below) and I’ve got to say, this article hit some sensitive areas. The beginning of the article was difficult but exciting. I read this part and immediately thought of those I love:
Love is both a wonderful bliss and a promise of pain. It carries with it the risk of loss and an almost unbearable threat: It requires us to risk our wants, desires and priorities for the sake of someone else. The real challenge of love is that it requires us to be selfless when we are all selfish by nature. Love, then, is a defiance of our own instinct.
Love is risky, it is vulnerable, it is naked. Love is not easy. It was one of those moments, I was thinking, “Yeah! This is exactly what I am trying to work on. I love this article!” … But then it took a turn and wasn’t as exciting. Here is when it shifted:
In the Church, we talk about loving our enemies. But truth be told, our enemies are not the hardest people to love. It’s not those who antagonize us, but the pariahs, the socially awkward—the people with boundary issues, the guy with the wildly inappropriate jokes, the girl who talks like she’s paid by the word count—who pose the real challenge.
It got real. It is one thing to be working on being vulnerable in your love toward those you already mesh well with in community and it is already super difficult to do, but then to be challenged to love those who annoy the life out of you, those who seem unlovable to you, those who you just can’t figure out how to journey well with – this is a whole different ball park. The “Jesus face” is not even what Christ has asked us to do. In Matt. 22:36-39 He asks us to genuinely love our neighbors as we love ourselves, which is not just a mask. I have used the excuse so many times, “But God, I don’t even love myself that well, so it’s completely ok that I don’t love others well either”. If only that were a valid excuse. Really, what that statement is saying is that I am not allowing God to love me deeply. We love God because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). This requires being open, honest and vulnerable before God. Allowing Him to transform our lives with His love. That is also not easy but it is necessary to live a life fully alive. Only when we allow our hearts to be opened to His love will we be able to love ourselves and others well… especially those we find hard to love.
I came away from reading this article with a list of people to whom I need to apologize. There are many I have not even tried to love. It is so easy to go to church, go on service projects, feel like a good Christian and then justify why I don’t associate with those who drive me nuts. I know God is calling me to go deeper. What is He calling you to do?
Bethany Stettenbenz – Youth Development Coordinator
Edwards, Tyler. “Loving The Hard To Love”. Relevant Magazine. June 12, 2013. http://www.relevantmagazine.com/life/whole-life/loving-hard. Date accessed: June 13, 2013.