Chances are very good that there are those in your church fellowship, workplace, or family who feel unwanted, forgotten, unloved (and unlovely!)—and are more lonely than words can express. I wish to speak on their behalf and in their defense today.
Strange though it may seem, these are often the people most difficult to love. Why? Because they feel unwanted, they are convinced that their lives are wasted, useless, and a bother. They wrestle with inferiority, thoughts of suicide, a twisted self-image, and a loss of self-respect. This results in all sorts of unattractive and unappealing responses. Because they entertain such a repulsive self-image, it is only natural that they act repulsively. This unpleasant lifestyle isolates them even more, of course, “confirming” their gutter-level opinion of themselves. What a sad, sad cycle!
Instead of loving these people, we usually label them.
Instead of caring, we criticize.
Instead of getting next to them, we react, we resent, we run.
Instead of “kissing the frog,” we develop ways of poisoning it—or, at best, ignoring it completely.
Consider a few suggestions which will help build needed bridges:
- Be positive rather than negative. When tempted to scowl, stop and think,”This person must really be hurting. I refuse to turn against him or her! Lord, how can I express Your love?”
- Be gracious rather than irritated. Remember that those surface characteristics are probably a cheap cover-up. To respond in grace and kindness will often unmask the “real person” down inside.
- Be creative rather than traditional. Look for new ways of reaching out and encouraging that person. Fight the old urge to reject and criticize. Go out of your way to show that you really care.
- Be available rather than distant. Open your heart and your home! Bridges aren’t built with just a handshake at church or a smile as you get into your car after work. Loving the unlovely takes time and effort. Availability is not optional; it’s essential.
Scriptural justification for this? Yes, indeed. In fact, the entire New Testament is filled with such directives. Of course, it’s easy to miss them when we are blinded by the most common disease known to humankind: selfishness.