“I love you.”
Three simple words. Words that are supposed to change the course of your life. Unless, of course, the words aren’t said back.
One-sided love. Unrequited love. All of us have probably experienced it. In fact, one of my earliest memories is of such a moment. I was probably three or four years old at the time but I still have not forgotten it.
I desperately wanted to play with a girl from my church. However, she and her friend would push me aside and get me in trouble for things I did not do. I remember being devastated when she would not be my “best friend”. It was a minuscule drama but my feelings were deep.
It is heartbreaking when our heart gets broken by someone we love who does not love us back. It feels like betrayal. I know the feeling all too well. Too many close friends in my life have left me feeling this way.
I spent way too many nights complaining to God that it just is not fair. After all, God wants everyone to love but these friends of mine who are supposed to even know Him aren’t loving me back.
That is, until recently, when I realized something:
The Bible never promised that the people we love would love us back!
Maybe it isn’t such a significant discovery to you but it completely changed my outlook on love. We are taught in our society to love people especially for what they grant us. Whether it be companionship or presents or wisdom, we search for these traits in our “friends”. It is definitely wise to choose compassionate friends; however, the Bible instructs us to love our neighbors and our enemies.
When I ponder the word ‘enemies’, I visualize people who are coming at me with a sword to fight me as they would in centuries past. So, I do not feel like I really have “enemies”. However, enemies are people who are just against us in some way. It could be that they still technically care about us. Such as friends who are nice until you confront them or companions who care about you but aren’t willing to stick around for the tough times.
These are the people it is hardest to love. It is in some way easy to love a person who never said they would be on your side and never stabbed you in the back in any little way. The people you would never expect to hear a “love you” from. However, the people you expect love from who let you down, are extremely difficult to love.
So, in my life, when I felt unloved by people although they were a part of my community, I became frustrated and began questioning God. Ultimately, however, I realized the truth.
God loves us but people usually don’t. And, that’s what the Bible says is normal for Christians. I just didn’t realize it.
God, however, is the perfect epitome of one-sided love. He loved us first says the Bible. We did not love Him back. Look all the way back in the Garden of Eden. He showers love upon Adam and Eve only to have them break the one rule He gave them, all to try to become like Him. They were not happy with His love and did not love Him back truly. Seeing His amazing love can open our eyes through the five main implications of it.
1. God understands
Oftentimes, when we share our problems with those around us, they respond with, “I totally understand!” They then go on to list a “similar” situation in their own lives which is usually completely different from ours. However, with God, He has not only been through what we are facing but has gone through betrayal that is even deeper. It is like talking with the ultimate expert.
So, experiencing hurt from the relationships around us should inspire us to run to the One who understands. The One who hurt for us. The One whom we can trust.
2. God heals
We worship a great God! He does not just stop with understanding our pain but moves on to heal it. God is our Redeemer. He gives us a new and beautiful future as Boaz, Ruth’s kinsman-redeemer, gave her. He pays the price for us and heals our brokenness and injuries.
This leads us to worship Him more. How could we not? This God is by our side! He heals! He loves! He redeems!
3. God still expects love
God loves us so He doesn’t even just leave us with a beautiful future. He stays with us to allow us to continue his legacy of love for His glory. This may seem like a punishment. No one wants to love those who hurt them. It’s like being told to go talk with the bully by our parent. However, we are now changed people.
So, we can, first of all, forgive. To whom much is given much is expected. We were given priceless redemption. Now, we must give mere forgiveness.
Then, we can take the next step of continuing to love them anyway. It’s beyond forgiveness. It’s not ignorance. It’s pure, untainted love. If we were to love someone, nothing could stop us from loving them. Love lasts forever. It may not be wise to pursue a relationship of any kind with someone who backstabs us but we must continue loving them.
This love looks different for every circumstance. It may mean that you continue praying for those who have hurt you. It may mean that you even have genuine conversations with them instead of giving them the cold shoulder or fake smile. Whatever it looks like, it comes from the heart as one of the redeemed.
4. God gives grace (to all of us)
It is obvious that love is extremely difficult especially for these enemies. However, this is where further good news comes in. God is also a God of grace! He gives us grace even though we continuously fail Him because of who He is. He also gives this grace to those who wrong us. Those whom we love who don’t love us back.
We must be willing to accept this grace for ourselves and for others. Otherwise, we end up like Jonah who accepted God’s grace for Him from the belly of a whale but refused to accept the same grace for those in Ninevah. Once we understand just how much God has given us grace, it allows us to continue to be gracious towards those who hurt us.
5. God empowers us
Lastly, God empowers us. He has given us His Holy Spirit who guides us through every difficult moment. This means we are not alone in our moments when we find it difficult to love. God, Himself is beside us. It is not we who will love but Christ within us who will be empowering us to love.
The friend of mine who disappointed me when I was a toddler is now one of my closest friends. Looking back at that situation it seems so small. I am sure that in the future when I look back to my relationship hurts of now that they will seem small in the light of the beautiful love that I can pass on in these relationships.
My love can never even come close to the love of my Father in heaven. With Him as my inspiration, I will continue to love Him back by loving those around me.