“When It’s Hard to Love”
Series: “Living Lent with Love”
April 3, 2022
Pastor Rich Knight
Central Congregational Church
We’ve been talking about love this Lent. It’s our true & central calling as Christ
followers. To do justice to this topic, I believe we need to think about those
situations when it’s hardest to love.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your
enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who
persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he
makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous
and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do
you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only
your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even
the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is
Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s
sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his
mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his
mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your
mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.
Sometimes loving others is easy, sometimes it’s not.
Give me a good-night’s sleep, a stress-free day, and surround me with people
love and like, and I can be the Big Papi of Love. But on a day when I’m tired,
stressed, and surrounded by people I’m not so sure about, and I can strike out
looking when it comes to love. Can you relate to that? (I hope so or I’ll feel
If we’re to be Christ-followers who love consistently, not perfectly, but with
faithfully and reliably, then we’ve got to dig in and love, even when it
seems nearly impossible.
Jesus is clear about this, isn’t he?
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your
enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute
you, For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Even the tax
collectors do that. Even the Gentiles do that.
Love your enemies. little kid inside of me say, “Do we have to????” Jesus says,
“Yes. That’s what I expect from my followers, because it’s what the world
If there’s one teaching that our divided country needs right now, it’s this one:
Love your enemies.
Here are a few practical suggestions on how to do it:
- Find Common Ground.
“We both care about this country.”
“We both care about the economy. “
“We both care about the immigrants, right? I know you do.”
“We both love nature, don’t we? Of course, we do.”
Illustration. I have a friend that I talk politics and current events with regularly, and we
are on the opposite side on most issues. I tell him affectionately that he’s my
“True South.” But our talks usually go pretty well because he has this consistent
habit of beginning almost every response with, “I agree with the heart of what
you just said, however . . . “I hear exactly what you’re saying, and I agree with
95% of it, at the same time . . .”
It’s hard to get mad at someone who always finds common ground, and it’s
much easier to have better talks that way. I guess he’s not my True South after
- Focus on the humanity of the other person.
If you can’t find common ground, at least remind yourself about your common
humanity. Remember that some of your enlightened views didn’t just happen,
they may have taken years to develop.
- Don’t retaliate. Don’t attack back. Use “I” statements.
We saw two examples of what to do and what not to do
Illustration. Actor Will Smith and Sen. Cory Booker
Will Smith saw that his wife Jada was offended by a joke that Chris Rock made
at the Oscars, and he snapped. And just when you thought you’d seen it all, he
went up on stage and smacked Rock in the face in the middle of the Oscars
ceremony. Will Smith was standing up for his wife, but of course he went about
it the wrong way.
Contrast that with what Senator Cory Booker did a few days earlier, standing up
for someone. It was during the Senate hearing regarding the Supreme Court
nominee, Ketanji Brown Jackson. Booker was appalled by the treatment of
Judge Jackson by some of the senators. Some of them seemed to be
grandstanding, thinking only about future presidential bids. Booker felt they
were quite disrespectful in their questioning of Brown Jackson, a graduate of
Harvard Law School and an someone with a distinguished record of service.
Booker then said:
“You got here how every Black woman in America who’s gotten anywhere has
done, by being like Ginger Rogers: ‘I did everything Fred Astaire did but
backward, in heels,'”
“You are a great American – a mother, a Christian, a scholar, a public servant.
You have earned this!”
“No one’s going to steal my joy!” – the joy of this moment
Booker didn’t attack the other side. He affirmed what he believed. That’s a good example of loving one’s enemies, and staying on the path of love, in the midst of the conflict and unkindness.
Another beautiful example of loving one’s enemies were the words of Abraham
Lincoln. When the war was nearly over Lincoln was asked how he would treat
the rebellious Confederates. He said, “I’ll treat them as if they’d never left.”
In his second inaugural address he resisted the temptation to gloat over his
imminent victory over the south, and to punish or shame them verbally and
otherwise for the rebellion. Instead, he uttered those famous words, “With
malice toward none, with charity for all.”
Fast forward about 100 years and someone else had a lot to say about loving
our enemies – Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.”
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Listen to a part of King’s sermon, “Love Your Enemies:”
“Now there is a final reason I think that Jesus says, ‘Love your enemies.’ It is this: that love has within it a redemptive power. And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals. Just keep being friendly to that person. Just keep loving them, and they can’t stand it too long. Oh, they react in many ways in the beginning. They react with guilt feelings, and sometimes they’ll hate you a little more at that transition period, but just keep loving them. And by the power of your love they will break down under the load. That’s love, you see. It is redemptive, and this is why Jesus says love. There’s something about love that builds up and is creative. There is something about hate that tears down and is destructive. So love your enemies.”
Dr. King understood the power of love.
- Here’s one more suggestion for how to love one’s enemies.
It comes from Jesus himself – pray for them!
Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
Do you know why he adds pray for them?
It’s because it’s almost impossible to hate someone you’ve been praying for regularly! Hate and bitterness eventually get put in their place in the presence of God. That’s why Jesus tells us to pray for our enemies.
So, that’s one area where it’s hard to love – when we’re being disrespected,
argued with, put down, misunderstood and more. “Loving those who oppose us”
is a very clear directive.
There’s one other area that I want to briefly touch on today, and that’s
loving when we’re in pain.
It might be physical pain, emotional pain, even intellectual pain – “That makes
my hair hurt!” Loving when we’re in pain is also a tall order.
Someone told me about an anacronym in AA. “H.A.L.T.”
H-A-L-T = Hungry. Angry. Lonely. Tired.
Alcoholics are most likely to drink when they are hungry, angry, lonely or tired.
Knowing that is a defense against it. When it comes to love, it’s harder when
we’re hungry, angry, lonely, or tired – any kind of physical discomfort and
The greatest example I know of of someone loving while in pain, agonizing
pain, is Jesus on the Cross.
First, he prays for those that put him up on that cross.
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
That’s “Love your enemies and pray for them.”
Then he looks down and sees his mother – I can’t even think about that for very long. The disciple John is standing next to her, and so it occurs to him that John can look after his mother going forward.
“John, behold your mother.”
“Mother, behold your son.”
And just so we don’t miss what’s happening, the text adds, “And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.” That’s loving while one is in pain, excruciating pain. Pain usually makes us look inward and understandably focus on ourselves. Love focuses on the other. Jesus never lost that focus.
One thing you can always say about Jesus is this: he never asks us to do what he hasn’t already done himself. He practiced what he preached.
Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
Don’t just love when it’s easy. Love even when it’s hard.
Think about it.
Let’s pray about it.
Lord Jesus, your teachings challenge us, but you have shown us the way. Still, we need your presence, your power, and your grace in our hearts to love all people, especially when it’s hardest. Come to us now, as we gather around your table. Feed us that we might live and love in you. Amen.