Written by: Stacy Lowe
“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’” ~ Matthew 25:40
Who do you picture when you hear “the least of these”? The orphans? The widows? Those who can do nothing for you in return? That’s who has always come to my mind, but my definition has been recently challenged and you may not like the addition.
You see, I recently saw a beautiful little girl with tears streaming down her cheeks because of some ugly, hurtful things that had been said about her by someone old enough to have known better. I’ll be honest that in that moment (and for many moments thereafter), I was angry- angry at the one who made the comments and angry that this little girl has to grow up in a world where, unfortunately, she’s going to encounter that again.
That same evening while caring for a friend’s little one, I gazed into his sleepy eyes and marveled at the beauty and innocence found there. And it was in that moment I realized that same person who had said such cruel things had once been a sweet, innocent babe himself. I couldn’t help but wonder what had happened to transform him into the not-so-nice person he is today. My anger went down a few notches as I kept hearing in my heart that I was to “love the least of these.”
So I ask, what if the “least of these” is also meant to include the cruel? The mean? The ones whose behaviors we all love to hate?
In Matthew 5:43-48, Jesus says this: “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
We are clearly called to love the difficult-to-love and if we don’t do it, who will? Their behavior certainly isn’t going to attract it. And if they are never on the receiving end of something better, how can we ever expect a change?
I am convinced more than ever that neutrality is no longer an option. It’s not enough to not be unkind to those people. We have been tasked with flooding our world with love and that includes loving the unlovable.
So what does that look like?
It looks like going out of our way to care for them.
It looks like praying for them.
It looks like holding their feet to the fire and modeling something better in their presence.
It looks like never giving up on them.
It looks like continuing to believe they are better than they are showing in this moment.
It looks like recognizing that just as we have been covered in unmerited grace, we are called to extend that same grace to others.
While we are not responsible for anyone else’s actions, we are responsible for our own and we have been called to something greater- a love that goes against human nature, a love that could only originate from God Himself.
How can you love the unlovable in YOUR world?