Welcome Brandy Heineman to the blog today. She's a wonderful writer with a passion for stories about faith and family history.
Brandy is here to share her lessons on loving the unloveable. Yes, it is possible! :) Read on for good advice and Bible-based direction as to how to move past yourself and your emotions when offended and reach out with agape love for your fellow humans.
3 Ways to Love the Unloveable
A devotional written by Brandy Heineman
Key Verse: "For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?" - Matthew 5:46
At Vacation Bible School several years ago, I asked a roomful of third- and fourth-graders for ideas of ways they could follow Jesus.
I still smile remembering the kid who suggested that he could be nice to his Mom.
I shared the Bible verse above and gently asked my group to dig deeper, but that moment sticks to my memory with the awareness of what a “tax collector” I am myself. Obviously, we’ll struggle if we accept the task of loving the Unloveables around us. At times when we’re not tuned in to every day ministry, even recognizing them is tough. Who are they, and how can we follow Jesus in loving them?
Unloveable #1: The Sick, Hurting, and/or Hungry
Remember Bartimaeus, the blind beggar who cried out for Jesus’s attention as He was leaving Jericho (Mark 10:46-52)? When it says that “Many were sternly telling him to be quiet” (v 48), what do you think that sounded like?
“Hey, buddy. I came to hear Him, not you.”
“Will you shush? You’re embarrassing yourself.”
“Sir, if you can’t be respectful, you’ll be asked to leave.”
It’s probably true that Bartimaeus ruined the experience for some folks that day. We're seldom at our best when we face unmet physical needs, but Jesus constantly ministered to the poor, hungry, sick and afflicted.
Show Love By:
· Visiting or volunteering at a nursing home.
· Taking a meal to a family undergoing trials.
· Writing an old-fashioned encouraging letter to a person who wears pain on his/her sleeve.
A word on donations: I’d never suggest allowing a food pantry program to reach the bottom of its stores or withholding clothes or cash when it’s possible to bless someone by giving—but I can’t advocate stopping there. Donating can be very hands-off, which is appropriate in some cases, but make it personal whenever possible. Connection communicates love deeply.
Scriptures for further study: Matthew 25:34-40, James 1:27
Unloveable #2: The Offensive
When someone hurls hurtful words our way, it's natural to volley back—and supernatural to show love to that person. Jesus exemplified this to the extreme when He said of his murderers and mockers, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34).
What? This wasn’t some unintended slight! This was history’s most significant murder plot in the midst of being carried out! Yet the Pharisees, government officials, centurions, and jeering onlookers didn’t understand that significance. It’s the very picture of why we sing about Christ’s matchless love. We can’t match it—but we’re called to emulate it.
Show Love By:
· Confronting issues head-on with language that shows willingness to forgive, such as, “We’ve gotten off on the wrong foot. Can we start over?”
· Choosing not to be offended. You can’t govern what anyone else says, but you can decide how to feel about it.
· Praying for the offender and resisting the urge to gossip. Even if God does not choose to change that person, He will change your heart toward him/her.
Scriptures for further study: Matthew 5:43-45, Galatians 5:13-15
Unloveable #3: The Outsider
Most of us don’t intentionally exclude people at the fringe—especially when, like the woman who hemorrhaged for 12 years (in Matthew 9:20-22), they seem to prefer to slip by unnoticed. Nonetheless, Jesus took the time to make sure she was seen and known, and we should do the same.
Simple to say; tough to do. What happens when a new person shows up in your tight-knit community group? What if he smells bad (because he doesn’t have a way to wash his clothes)? What if she ruins the easy camaraderie (because she can’t hold her hurting inside)? In situations where “polite” feels uncomfortable and forced, we might as well go for broke and show love instead.
Show Love By:
· Seeking out and welcoming unfamiliar faces.
· Not shrinking away from people for superficial reasons.
· Extending hospitality where it’s unexpected or unlikely to be returned.
Scriptures for further study: Acts 10:34-35, James 2:1-4
Loving the Unloveables in our spheres takes intentionality. We all fail frequently—and yet receive many chances to do better. Go seize yours!
Your Turn: How do you suggest showing love to the Unloveable?
Brandy Heineman loves stories of faith and family history.
She’s a graduate of Wesleyan College and an author with Elk Lake Publishing.
She is also a first-generation Southerner who occasionally gets caught saying things like, “Y’all want some pop?” Brandy lives in metro Atlanta with her husband, Michael.