Romans 12:9-21 says, “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love…bless those who persecute you…do not repay evil for evil.”
Lockdown has tried our patience and deprived us of ways to escape hard things, which includes hard relationships. How do we keep on loving difficult people?
Let’s be clear: we are ALL difficult people to love. This is because we are sinners and not perfect. There are always going to be times when we annoy the most loving of people. The deeper the love in friendship, marriage, or parenting, the more painful our sin and difficulty can be. The good news is that Christ-followers have more resources available for challenging relationships because we have hope and the strength that comes from the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13).
Romans 14 gives an account where believers are struggling to love one another because of their different opinions and practices. Sin in a relationship needs to be recognized and dealt with. Often, this is the tension and there are not always clear answers. In Chapter 14 and throughout Romans, Paul describes a way to live in the tension, to pursue peace, and to do the right thing (chapters 5,12 and 15).
One of those ways is to keep perspective. Is it more important to be right and get what you want, or is it more important to trust God? Romans 5 reminds us that when we have peace with God through Jesus Christ our future is secure. Believing life lived for Christ is short and difficult but eternity long and blissful, do we really want to waste our days and years in bitterness and self-righteousness?
Also, consider the great sacrifice Jesus Christ made to redeem us from evil. If God himself suffered and sacrificed on behalf of us who were sinners and far from his love, how can we give up when love gets difficult for us? If God forgives us, how can we cling to our rights (Romans 5:8)?
In Romans 5:3, Paul tells us to rejoice in our sufferings, and that includes our broken relationships. Why? Because suffering produces endurance and endurance builds character whereby we are conformed into the image of his Son. And this in turn gives us hope that there are greater things to come. (Romans 5:5 and 8:18 and 8:29). Perhaps, God has put difficult relationships in our lives as opportunities to exercise our faith in Him as well as a way to discover more about the depth of His love for us.
Loving difficult people is exhausting at best, painful at worst. May the prayers in Romans 15:5 and13 connect you with the Holy Spirit and give you hope as you love the hard to love.