How many of you want to feel loved by those around you? Thank you for that show of hands.
We all have a desire to feel loved by our family, friends, even the random person that walks by us in the street. God has designed us with this desire. He has placed within us a desire for genuine community and intimacy.
However, even though we have a desire to feel loved by others, often times we are not willing to put in the work to love those around us. People are messy. They hurt us, whether intentionally or unintentionally. We hurt them. We get jealous at each other. We misunderstand each other. For numerous other reasons, people are messy, and often we don't want to put in the effort to see past that messiness, and love them.
So, how do we as followers of Christ look past the messiness and love the person who has "hurt" us?
Remember who we are
We are human. Because of our human nature, we naturally hurt each other. However, we have hurt more than just fellow humanity. We have hurt the Creator of the Universe. Ever since Adam and Eve chose the fruit of the tree over the Creator of the tree, humanity has been choosing their own desires over their Creator. We have hurt Him over and over again.
However, our God loved us in spite of all we had done. He loved us because He created us, saw value in us, and wanted to have a renewed relationship with us. The Father loved us so much that He sacrificed His Son for us. He died that we might live, and that we might have a close, intimate, loving relationship with our God. All glory be to Him!
We are imperfect people who were perfectly loved by a great God.
Remember who the person is
The human who has hurt us, no matter the level of hurt, is just like us. They have emotions; they have needs; they have hurts. More importantly, they are imperfect and they are loved by our Creator. In fact, He died for them. If He loved them so much that He would die for them, why would we not follow in His footsteps and love them?
Paul said it this way, speaking of the two groups of society that hated each other in his time: "For he himself [Christ] is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit" (Eph 2:14-18).
If we, the hurt, are imperfect and loved by God, and the one who has hurt us is imperfect and loved by God, we are the same. We should love that person and seek peace with him through Christ.
Work toward Peace
Now, seeking peace (or reconciliation) is hard. Our natural tendency, ever since Adam and Eve, is to hurt someone as we have been hurt, whether it is active, by seeking vengeance, or passive, by putting up barriers. Either way, we must remember that God is the one who avenges, not us (Rom 12:19).
To illustrate the process of peace, I will use a fictional character: Uz.
Uz hurt me, and he hasn't apologized. However, because I need to love Uz as Christ loved me, I need to seek reconciliation. First, I need to remember who I am and how much God loved me. Then, I remember who Uz is and how much God loves Uz. Since God loved Uz that much, I need to forgive Uz and seek reconciliation. Remembering who I am and who Uz is, and praying for God's help, I can forgive Uz, releasing the right to seek vengeance.
I need to talk with Uz so that we can understand each other (Ephesians 4:15). I don't want to be the fool in Proverbs 18:2 ("Fools find no pleasure in understanding, but delight in airing their own opinions"). To show Uz that I have a desire to understand him and that I am not coming to hurt him, I keep the conversation away from accusation, focusing on my feelings and reaction. My goal is that he will know the truth, not that he will feel the hurt (Eph 4:25).
I would say something like this: "Uz, I felt hurt (or sad, or insecure, etc) when you said (insert comment), or when you did (insert action). This made me think that I am (insert possible truth). Could you help me understand what you meant when you said/did this." Then, I am quiet and allow him to speak (James 1:19).
I did not accuse him. I stated what I felt and what I thought based on what he said/did. I then showed that I wanted to understand him. I have given him enough information so that he can understand me. Now, I need to humble myself and seek to understand him.
It could be that I completely misunderstood Uz. Now, I have the ability to admit my wrong perception and be at peace with Uz again. Uz can apologize for unintentionally hurting me. Through this interchange, Uz and I can grow in how we interact with others in the future.
However, Uz might have intentionally hurt me. He might not want to have peace or admit his fault. My duty is to love and forgive Uz (Colossians 3:13). I need to seek reconciliation in whatever way I can. If Uz is a member of my church, I can bring other church members with me later to approach Uz (Matthew 18:15-16). Hopefully, this will bring reconciliation.
The Attitude of Peace
Through all this process, we need to remember that we are not here to hurt or to vent our opinions (Eph 4:26). Our attitude should be love, peace, and reconciliation. Christ has forgiven us so much. He has shown us so much love. He has reconciled us to Himself. Why are we so hesitant to seek reconciliation with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Why won't we live in complete love?