“But They Treat Me Badly!”
How do we love people when they’re unlovely, treat us poorly, or act ugly to us?
First John 3:16 says, “Hereby perceive we the love of God. Because he laid down his life for us, we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” That word translated “perceive” here is ginosko. If you look it up in your concordance, you’ll find it can be translated as “to perceive, to know, to recognize, or to feel.”
You and I can feel—or have affection for—the love of God. That means after we make a decision to love other people unconditionally, the feeling of love will come. We will perceive or feel God’s love as we begin serving others, just because He served us. Eventually, we’re going to begin feeling love for others. That is the emotional capacity we’ve all been created to have, which is intended to sustain you and make you consistent in loving the unlovely.
Let me talk about our emotional capacity for just a minute. Our emotions are part of our soulish man. Our soul is made up of our mind (intellect), our will (where we make our decisions), and our emotions. When we first receive data, we process it intellectually. Our mind measures all of the input it gets. On the basis of that input, we enact our will and make a decision.
God says in Deuteronomy chapter 30 that all our decisions fall into one of two categories: life and blessing or death and cursing. The Bible also says that a wavering or double-minded man receives nothing from the Lord. This is where your emotions come in. Your emotions provide staying power for the decisions you make.
Many people make decisions on the basis of how they feel and don’t use their reasoning at all. Others make decisions without an emotional basis and have no staying power to continue in the decision they made.
We need to learn to involve both our intellect and our emotions. Once you make a decision, you become emotionally involved in it because that’s what enables you to sustain the decision you make.
Emotions are stirred by what you meditate on. If you want to stop smoking, stir up your emotions by thinking about how that little cigarette is killing you and how foolish it is to be in bondage to something so little. “The Devil has no right to put this on me.” Start talking to yourself and getting yourself stirred up about why it is good to stop smoking. Get righteously indignant and thoroughly aggravated that smoking is dominating your life; otherwise, you’ll never get rid of it. It is those emotions that will sustain you in the decision to quit.
What is the emotional capacity to sustain us in our decision to love other people? It is the feeling of love or affection that comes for certain people. For example, who are the easiest people in the world to serve? They are the people you feel affection for. If we could only learn to feel the kind of emotion for the unlovely that comes naturally for some people, we could sustain our decision to give to them.
So how does this happen? As we make a decision to begin serving, just because of what Jesus did for us, we’ll begin to feel the kind of emotion for that person that will enable us to be consistent in loving them.
Now God doesn’t require you to feel affection for people who hate you and treat you spitefully and do you wrong. It’s hard to feel affection for somebody who has done things despitefully to you. Affection generally comes to you as people respond to your love. As people respond to your love and they begin giving of themselves to you, then affection can grow.
When somebody doesn’t respond to your love and they continue to misuse you or treat you wrongly, you’re not going to feel affection for them. There is another emotional response, though, that will come as a result of your decision to serve even those who are ugly to you. You will feel compassion. We see this on every occasion where Jesus ministered to multitudes and miracles were the result. He couldn’t have known them in a way that would have produced affection, but He did feel compassion.
So you’ll feel one of two things for people. You’ll begin to feel affection for them or you’ll begin to feel compassionate toward them. These feelings are something you need to believe for, ask for, and look for because this is what sustains you in your decision to love other people.
Ask God to give you compassion for somebody who treats you ugly. Ask Him to help you to see them the way He sees them, to show them to you through His eyes. As He does, that compassion will rise within you, and it will sustain you in your decisions to give and to love.
So the third thing that sustains you in your decision to love is allow the feeling of love to become a part of your approach to other people. I’ll share the fourth element in getting rid of fear in next week’s blog post.