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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Learning to be Unloved

Note: This week’s three posts are an extended response to a comment from Russell Holloway (who consistently makes me think hard) on Foundations Part II, in which Russell asserts that love for God and love for man cannot exist apart from one another.

“Loving means to love that which is unlovable—
or it is no virtue at all.”
~ Gilbert Keith Chesterton

Learning to be Unloved

“For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?”
~ Matthew 5:46 (NKJV)

It feels good to be loved. I daresay the need to be loved is greater than the need to sleep and eat and breathe.

Learning to love can be difficult, especially when it is love which requires selflessness and sacrifice. But there is the expectation that if we express love, we are loved in return, or at the very least get a good feeling from being selfless and sacrificial. The expectation is understood.

God operates on different principles. He asks us to do things like

• love your enemies
• do good to those who hate you
• bless those who curse you
• pray for those who spitefully use you
• to him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also
• from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic
• give to everyone who asks of you
• from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back
(Luke 6:27-30 NKJV)

This is learning to be unloved.

There is a place within Christian relationships to confront those who sin against you, to honor God and preserve the relationships. Several places in Scripture speak of sin and specifically puts it in the context of “if your brother ...”

Jesus’ words of Luke 6 are not one of those contexts. We seem to therefore draw the conclusion that they’re meant for the way we treat people of the world. We might argue a while before we finally break down and do good to those who hate us when a stranger is involved. We can reason that a non-Christian doesn’t know better.

But when bad behavior come from a brother or sister in Christ, there’s something about the expectation of good from a Christian that makes us bristle when they fail us. When we’ve invested ourselves in another person and sacrificed and there has been love shared, we don’t expect to see the day when love becomes apathy or betrayal or outright malice.

We expect love to feel good. No matter how many times we are hurt, no matter how many people sin against us, do we ever reach the point where we accept love as painful?

We don’t expect that learning to love will graduate to learning to be unloved while continuing to love. By ourselves, it is thoroughly impossible. With God, it is more than possible. It is our mandate. It is what our Lord asks of us and empowers in us, because it is the love He has given us.

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
~ Romans 5:8 (NKJV)

Our precious Lord, we are thoroughly unworthy of You. Thank You for the great love You pour out upon us. Thank You for enduring the pain it cost You. Please enable us to love in the face of pain, of hatred, of apathy, of sin. Please teach us to be unloved and yet love, as You do.

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  1. Amen, may we love through all seasons of our lifes.

  2. This can get confusing for me when boundaries come into play. I have to sift through how God is leading. But ultimately it always comes back to a loving response. That just looks different at different times.

    Of course love like this is beyond what I can's the stuff of the Spirit...the stuff of God.

    ~ Wendy

  3. "We don’t expect that learning to love will graduate to learning to be unloved while continuing to love."
    Hard lesson. Still learning. Will I ever graduate?

    This reminds me of chapter 3 of Don Whitney's "10 Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health."

    Thanks for the reminder and the challenge. This is true Christlikeness.

  4. Great thoughts put together beautifully. I wrote about processing through pain today as it relates to hurts in the church and spiritual burnout. This a very timely message, I believe. Thanks Anne.

  5. I've been experiencing this severely for the past month. This is not an easy thing to go through. The best thing I did was give it to the Lord every day.

  6. Learning to be unloved ... this is such a powerful concept. It also means learning that God's love is enough. Thank you so much Anne.

  7. Denise ~ God is merciful. Though there will always be moments of being unloved, how good that the seasons change.

    Monica ~ "Will I ever graduate?" LOL! This life has many lessons, many tests, but the "graduation" is when we move on to Heaven. Until then, we'll still be learning such HARD lessons.

    Jason ~ Your "Processing Through Pain" post brings up very good points. Until we process and accept that pain is a part of the human experience, it's difficult to shift our perspective from Self to others.

    T ~ Giving it to the Lord is an important first step. Sometimes more steps are appropriate, especially in close relationships. It's a topic I've been thinking I should address. See my comment to Wendy, below.

    Russell ~ When I use the word "graduate" in learning this, it is indeed that the lesson graduates to the most difficult things we learn, not that we ever finish learning. But at some point, we only have freedom by learning this, and truly, by learning that God's love really is enough. Thank you for making the point.

  8. Wendy ~

    This is all plenty confusing. And it seems those boundaries are sharp only once we've fallen over them into a chasm of suffering that defies easy answers.

    As I mentioned in the post, Scripture addresses many ways of effectively confronting a "brother"—which means a fellow Christian, but can also be applicable to those with whom we are in close relationship.

    Yes, it will ALWAYS, ultimately, come back to a loving response, which is absolutely different at different times. Heavy dependence on not only the Holy Spirit, but trusted Christian counsel (whether professional or from mature friends) and Scripture helps us know what those different responses will look like.

    This all ties into forgiveness. I've got a post I'll be writing on that—a guest post on a great Christian blog as a matter of fact. I have a bit of praying to do first, to sort out just how much to tie in to forgiveness, and how much to perhaps tie into other related posts.

  9. For me too, "learning to be unloved" is a tough concept. But you are right when i think about it. The deeper I grow closer to Christ, The pain of rejection is softened by the deep love of the Savior

  10. David ~ Perhaps better than having the pain softened is simply knowing fellowship with Him in it. Rejection stings like nothing else. When I suffer with it, I remind myself of His great love to willingly take on rejection for my sake.


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