There is a dark, ugly truth about me. I struggle to love people who are different from me: the woman who wreaks of cigarette smoke; the mom in dirty sweats, yelling at her kids in the store; or the mom who can’t wait for her kids to go back to school so she can have time to herself again; even the child who has learned at an early age to manipulate anyone nice to him. Sure I can smile and extend my hand. I can play the part. But inside my heart is cringing. I don’t truly love them because of my own pride.
But here’s another dark truth. I struggle to love the well-dressed working mom who loves her kids, the woman really good at loving other kids, or the woman who is well-spoken and always seems to know what to say. These women are different than I am, too. And I struggle to love them because I fear them. I fear the ways they are better than me.
This is my ugly, dark reality. And I’m most aware of that ugliness when I read Romans 5, when I read about a God who loved a creation so utterly unlike Himself, His antithesis, His enemy. We are enemies of God, the complete opposite of all that He is, and yet He went to the ultimate lengths to love us and reconcile us.
And here’s the scariest reality I have to face: how can I really love God, who is most unlike me, if I can’t love people who, though different, are still so much like me?
I would be hopelessly lost in this miserable reality, if it were not for the grace in which I stand, the hope that does not put to shame. God’s love has been poured into my heart by the Holy Spirit. So when my human sinfulness cringes and pulls back, the Holy Spirit steps forward with a love that is not my own. And gradually, the smallness of my love is lost in the enormity of God’s love, so that when I smile and extend my hand to you, you who are different from me, I can say: God loves you, and I commit to loving you the way He loves.