One of the challenges which every Christian faces is making sure that we love people who are hard to love. We probably all have people in our lives who demand a lot of our energy, take up a lot of our time, and who don’t ever notice the effort we put into doing so. They can feel like “one-way streets”, because we work hard to love and understand them, and it can feel like we get nothing in return. The result is that it’s often a struggle to continue loving and caring for them, or even relating to them.
It’s a subject that’s been on my mind a lot over the past few weeks because it seems like the longer the Covid19 virus is affecting our daily lives, the more impatient people are getting with life in general. And it also means that it’s getting harder and harder for us to persevere in loving and caring for each other. If you don’t think that’s true, just go to the grocery store and watch someone try to buy the last package of toilet paper. I’ve seen less brutal fights at heavyweight boxing matches!
As I’ve been pondering all of this - and asking God how I can continue to love and minister to others in the midst of this pandemic - God reminded me of Matthew 9. If you're not familiar with this section of Matthew, it's a chapter in which Jesus does a lot of ministering to a lot of different folks. And just about when I expect Him to respond like I would, and say “Enough!", we get to verse 36 - where it tells us that, “When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
Everywhere Jesus went, He was in demand. There was always a crowd around Him, and people were always asking for something from Him. From healing for themselves, to healing for their family and friends - there were always people in need. But Jesus knew that they needed more than just healing - He knew that their deepest need was in their soul. And so, despite the fact that He was busy and tired, and despite the fact that He was often mistreated by the very people He came to serve - Jesus met the physical needs of those around Him so that they could experience the healing touch of God. He did it so that they could look into the eyes of God and see the love and compassion they needed to see. And He did it because He saw these folks as they truly were - confused, helpless, and lost - needing someone to show them the way.
That's how we need to look at the difficult folks in our lives as well. They aren't simply problems that we need to “fix”, or avoid - they're folks who need to lovingly be shown the way home. When we look at them with the same compassion Jesus had, it will make it so much easier for us to continue to extend grace and mercy and love - the very things they need to see, to truly see God through us. But even more importantly, when we do this we will be treating them the same way God treats us.
So today, let's ask God to make us people of compassion. Let's ask Him to soften our hearts to the difficult people around us, and to help us see them as He does. Let's be instruments of God's love in this confused, frightened, and hurting world.