Loving people should be easy—you give love and you receive love; simple, right?
In reality, loving people is actually one of the hardest things that we do. However, it’s also one of the most important. In fact, it’s so important that when Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, He said to love God and love people.
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:36-40).
Loving people is so important to God that it’s a commandment!
Seems simple, but it’s a little more complicated than first perceived. Everyone is different; we all have unique experiences, circumstances, and struggles. People may have hurt you in the past. We may give love to people, only for it to be rejected.
Here are some steps that will help you to love people, no matter who they are.
1. Get to know them
One of the best ways to truly love someone is to get to know them. Without really knowing who they are, we might love the idea of them without really knowing anything about them.
The same is true when it comes to God. How can you truly love God if you don’t know Him?
“But let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 9:24).
This goes for any relationship. When you spend time and effort getting to know a person, this allows you to learn how they need to be loved.
We do need to love people whether we know them or not; we need to love strangers. But getting to know a person gives you insight to their struggles and why they do the things they do. Even a simple conversation can get you started in the right direction.
2. Understand their struggle
“Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.” ― Brad Meltzer
Everyone has a challenge or struggle that they are dealing with. When you meet someone, you probably have no idea what that struggle is. You might think you understand, but unless you get to know them for who they are and what they have experienced, you probably don’t. They could be struggling with depression or finances but we have no idea unless we take the time to understand them.
In getting to know somebody and understanding what they’ve been through, we can express an even more sincere love toward them.
Jesus not only understood our struggle, but He came to earth and struggled with us!
When Lazarus died, Mary and Martha were grieving over the loss of their brother. They were understandably upset when Jesus arrived. However, we see how much Jesus loved them because He felt their pain. He didn’t only understand their struggle; He shared in their struggle. He wept with them!
“Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, ‘See how He loved him!’” (John 11:36).
3. Be giving
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
God gave to us because He loves us. He gave what was most important to Him—His one and only Son. He did this out of love so that we would have eternal life. This is the greatest act of love, and it is an act of giving, an act of sacrifice.
In the book, “The Four Loves” by C.S. Lewis, he describes agape love, the love God has for us, as charity. This is the highest form of love. It is sacrificial love. It’s the love described in this verse:
“We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters” (1 John 3:16).
God gave us the greatest gift because He loves us. You cannot love without giving because real love is an action, not just a feeling. Real love is a choice we make each day. It is unconditional. Give without expectations, just as Jesus did.
4. Remember who you are
The Bible is full of reminders of how much God loves us and how valuable we are to Him. When you are secure in this you will have a much easier time loving others.
People aren’t perfect. We all make mistakes and have fallen short of the glory of God. We need to give grace to others, just like God gives grace to us. This is much easier to do when we remember who we are.
People will let you down, but you have to remember that God loves you even when people don’t. Remember that you are a child of God. When you are secure in this truth, nothing people say or how people make you feel will change what you believe, and it will help you to love others regardless of how they act or how they treat you.
5. Allow God to love you
Once you fully understand and accept the love that God has for you, it’s life-changing. God’s love is never changing and unconditional. He will pursue you and invite you to come to Him again and again. When you do come to Him, His arms will be wide open, ready to receive you.
God is the ultimate source of love. God is the love we all truly crave and desire deep down.
“You cannot really define love until you understand the one who has created you and me.” – Ravi Zacharias
Many times our flesh tricks us into thinking that we need people in order to feel loved. Yes, people are a huge source of love, but you must remember that God loved you first. He knew you before you were born, before you were even formed in the womb. He knew you before your mom, your spouse, or friends knew you. He loved you first.
When we allow His love to flow through us, we are able to love people in the way God intended. We are able to be patient with people. If someone is mean to us we can still be kind to them. We are able to forgive people again and again and again.
Fill yourself up with the powerful love of God. Let it overflow in your life so you can spread the love of Jesus to every person you encounter.
“We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).