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When I was a student, I was an unpleasant person. I was bitter and angry and I snapped at everyone. I was a hurtful person.
And I was a hurting person. I’ve had depression since I was a child, and I refused to get treatment—or even acknowledge it—until late in college. I went through middle school as a fat kid with depression. And it left me with deep emotional and psychological scars. It’s no wonder that I started hurting other people—they were just going to hurt me, so I’d get in the first hit. It was a self-fulfilling prophecy.
But disciples of Christ took the time to get to know me, to invite me in, to give me room to get away from my bitterness, and to show me real love. They broke the cycle of bitterness and hurt—I hurt them, but they refused to hurt me back. Over time, their love, God’s love, changed who I was.
People today often don’t believe me when I tell them this. I’ve changed that much.
Again and again throughout the Bible, we see God loving the unlovable. In 2 Kings 5, God healed a Syrian general named Naaman. Note that Naaman is a very successful commander of the Syrian army. And who tells him about the prophet in Samaria who can heal him? A captured Israelite girl. So Naaman was a successful commander of the Syrian army against Israelites, God’s own people. Indeed, when Naaman went to the King of Israel to request permission to visit the prophet Elisha, the King of Israel thinks it’s a pretext to start a new war.
Naaman was the enemy. Worse, he was a leper—no Israelite could touch him. His own people probably avoided it as much as possible, too, because they did not wish to catch his disease. But God healed him. Jesus mentions this in Luke 4:27: “And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” God healed the one person who no one would possibly think was worthy of healing—an unclean and pagan Gentile. And He did it at no cost.
And Jesus, throughout his first ministry on earth, healed many people who were unlovable. He healed Samaritans, lepers, even people who would betray him to the authorities, like the man at the pool of Bethesda in John 5. Jesus healed people who were not just unclean or pagan, but who would sell him out. Jesus showed God’s love to them, regardless of what they would show to him.
And remember Naaman? He was changed by that love. When he received his healing, he renounced his god, Rimmon (also known as Baal), and worshiped Yahweh. Naaman went away from Elisha as a different person.
God calls us to love the unlovable. He set the precedent; He showed us the Way.
I am a better Christian and a better person because of the investment of people like Dan De La Forest, Christopher Joseph, Travis Else, Dan Wagner, Mark Schmitz, Kyle Lehane, and Philip Sexton. Even now, over a decade later, I remember who it was who showed me love when I was unlovable. I still remember that it was Dan Wagner who first invited me to Chi Alpha. These people changed my life by showing me the love of God.
Who around you is hurting? Who is a genuinely unpleasant person? Who is God calling you to show His love to?
How can you show God’s love to them?