Loving people is hard, and it’s a struggle to do it well. If you haven’t found it difficult to love, at one point in time or another, you’re probably doing it wrong. Because loving people, especially when they’re behaving sinfully, is hard.
People by virtue are sinful, and sinful people make for difficult objects of love. Even regenerate sinners, God bless them, are difficult. (Maybe a little easier than non-believers? But hard to love nonetheless!)
The challenge of love is compounded when the people you’re trying to love are apathetic or even hateful towards you. The typical response given by society, and an extremely appealing solution, is to only love those who love you in return and to cut everyone else away. It is easy to be drawn by this idea, yet it is sinful to the core—for it stands against God’s second greatest command: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” I like the way Paul Tripp put it when he said, “If we only love our neighbor when he or she loves us in return, we’re not loving our neighbors, just ourselves.”
Most of us find it difficult to love unconditionally because love is treated like a bank account. People have to deposit into our banks, love, kindness, and charity, if they hope to receive the same kind of treatment in turn. The people with whom we’re frustrated and have a hard time loving are those people who haven’t deposited anything into our account. Their funds have run dry. Yet God would say to you and me, “love them anyway and put it on my account.”
Unconditional love is possible as we recognize what God has done for us. It is that realization that empowers us to love others unconditionally. God’s bank account from which we draw is infinite. He never withholds His grace or forgiveness, and “while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” Paying the ultimate price. God’s love was not contingent upon our behavior, if it were then we would never receive it.
When we love the undeserving, it’s a picture of Christ’s love. It’s a love that doesn’t make sense to the world. It’s a love that is unmerited. Because for Christians, their love should come from God, freely given as it is freely received.