Central to Jesus’ teachings is the message that we are to love others. In fact, he says in John 15 that his very commandment is to love each other the way that he has loved us. Love. At first glance, we might think, “No problem. I love people!” But his word for love has a much deeper meaning than what our society often understands, embraces, and practices. The word for love here is “Agape”. It simply means that we will fully love others in ways that show sacrifice and humility. Remember when Jesus washed his disciples feet? That was agape love. If we believe Jesus died on the cross for us, then we essentially have accepted his agape love. Even when we did nothing to deserve this kind of love. When it comes to family, most parents understand and practice agape love to their kids all the time. They understand the sacrifice of putting the needs of their children before their own. That explains why we, parents of young children, often look tired and haggard walking into church! But what about our crazy Uncle Eddie? You know...the people in our family who not only are difficult to love, but to LIKE?!? What about these people? How do we show agape to them when we’d rather not be in the same room with them? Frankly, there is never an easy answer this..
Rather than try and provide solutions, I thought I’d offer a couple insights that are worth remembering when we are having a hard time loving (or even liking) difficult family members:
- It’s worth remembering that Jesus showed agape to others when they had done nothing to earn it, or even deserve it. Are we making anyone in our family feel that they have to earn our love and acceptance?
- When Jesus displayed agape to others it was also a way of showing his respect to them. Despite some family being hard to love, are you respecting them? Do you shame them behind their back? Do you disrespect them in front of other family members?
- Remember, that to someone, somewhere we are probably difficult to love, too. It’s never just about others and not about us. We need grace just as much as crazy Uncle Eddie!
Grace and Peace,