If you’re an empathetic person, then you aren’t just thinking about decorating the house, buying gifts, and planning Christmas parties right now. You’re also thinking about those who have lost someone, those facing uncertainty, and those who seem to have lost their way. You’re wishing you could ease their suffering, calm their hearts, and quiet their anxious thoughts long enough for them to enjoy some of the Christmas season or at least get a really good night’s sleep.
On top of all that, you may be dreading gatherings you aren’t feeling up to at the moment. Because you’ve lived some life, you know that any time two or more are gathered, the potential for conflict is created. People do and say stupid things sometimes simply because we are human, and you don’t want to be hurt. More importantly, you don’t want the people you love to be hurt. Or hurt each other.
If they do, you’ll feel it.
It won’t really matter whether the stupid is intentional and mean or the result of carelessness, ignorance, or insecurity. The pain will be the same. So even though you want to see everyone and know they need to see each other for memories to be made and bonding to happen, you would almost rather forgo the festivities just to preserve relationships and keep everyone’s holiday hopes from being smashed.
You might even be struggling to muster up much enthusiasm at all for those whom you perceive to be potential threats to harmony and your own peace of mind even though you aren’t typically a negative or cynical person.
It’s rough! Believe me, I know. Even so, God expects us to love (John 15:17; Matthew 5:44).
Everyone. All the time.
What does that look like? Him.
God is the definition of love (1 John 4:8). He showed us Who He is when He sent His Son Jesus to pay the penalty for our sin so we could be forgiven and have new life in Him, and the result was love manifested to us (John 3:16). We like to think that we somehow inspired this sacrifice, but we didn’t. God’s own holiness did. God deserved to be worshipped, so He redeemed a world full of people to do it (Isaiah 43:21, 25; Ephesians 1:11-12).
Yes, God feels compassion for us, but He is the center of the Gospel story. His glory always comes first (see all of Isaiah). We are just very blessed bystanders, imperfect people who do not deserve the love of God, but get to experience it anyway because He’s just that good.
When you zoom out and look at Christmas and the cross from this perspective, God’s command to love people regardless of their behavior doesn’t really seem like too much to ask.
People don’t have to “deserve” our love to get it because God deserves our obedience, even if it means moving in and among other imperfect people. The honor of serving God’s glory is worth any pain or discomfort we might have to endure for our obedience. Jesus sure thought so (John 17:4)!