Learning to Love Like Jesus

I once heard a speaker call a fellow Christian an “EGR”—Extra Grace Required—person. I chuckled, along with the room. But the joke wasn’t truly funny. In my immaturity, I labeled my own “EGR” people in daily life. How unloving. How hurtful.

Surely in the Christian life we’ll face those who frustrate us, whether by action on their part or due to the wickedness in our own heart. Because of our sinful nature, we aren’t going to naturally love everyone. But that’s exactly what the Bible calls us to do.

No Exclusions

Commands to love others aren’t hard to find in Scripture, but this passage stuck out to me like an accent wall:

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. (Col. 3:12-14)

Did you notice there are no exclusions here? It doesn’t simply apply to the believers you naturally gravitate toward, nor to those who seem to have their lives together. It doesn’t grant you permission to ignore people whose personalities rub you the wrong way or those who've wounded you.

If we are commanded to "love your enemies," then we must strive to love everyone else, too (Matt. 5:44).

Judges with Evil Thoughts

James has a lot to say about being partial toward others…

My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? (Jas. 2:1-4, emphasis added)

Although James is writing about favoritism between the poor and rich, we are not blameless in this matter. Without realizing it, or perhaps even on purpose, there are people we don’t care to talk to. We may find in ourselves little desire to know them. Maybe it’s that widow we have trouble speaking to, or the wife who doesn’t have kids, or the new believer who doesn’t understand modesty yet.

We'd rather spend time with those who are comfortable to be around, so we cast others aside, showing we view people not as image-bearers to serve, but as objects to enhance our lives.

Truly, we make ourselves to be "judges with evil thoughts" seeking our own gain. Furthermore, we reveal that we aren't actually loving our friends either, but instead looking to them to serve us.

The Impartial Savior

What if Jesus treated us this way? Had the Savior God treated us as we often treat others, no one would have received salvation. Praise God he instead willingly sacrificed his comfort—even his very life—by entering into our mess. We had nothing to offer but our decaying souls and yet he saved us (Tit. 3:5). Praise God for his impartiality toward his children (Rom. 2:11)!

Each member of the Body of Christ is your brother or sister. All of them. The newest to the most seasoned; the “greatest” to the “least.” When we struggle to love someone, we’re correct that an "EGR" is present. But it’s not they who require extra grace—it’s us.

We need extra grace from the Lord because our hearts need help loving others as we’re commanded. Our hearts need to be softened with the love of our Savior who laid down his life for our sake, though there was no loveliness to be found within us (Rom. 5:8).

Learning to Love Like Jesus

Consider Jesus, who dined with sinners and touched the leper (Mark 2:13-17; Matt. 8:3). The Pharisees, those who were highly esteemed, looked down on him. They mocked him and questioned his ways. They despised him and plotted his death (Matt. 12:14).

You may not gain popularity by seeking out those who are on the fringes, but you will be more like Christ. You will learn how to "do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves" and to "outdo one another in showing honor," "submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ" (Phil. 2:3; Rom. 12:10; Eph. 5:21). "But for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury" (Rom. 2:8).

Here lies a warning for all of us. I'd be lying if I said I hadn't found within my own heart a struggle to love others. Sin still tries to grip the hearts of all believers. But these new hearts, given to us by a redeeming God, can obey him in this command—but not without his transforming grace.

Transforming Grace Required

Have you ever struggled to love someone and you’re not sure why? I have.

There was this person who bothered me. I couldn’t give a reason why . . . they just did. I found myself avoiding conversations with them and seeking out others instead. And then God revealed to me the wickedness of my heart. I hated that I struggled to love someone who had done me no harm. What kind of person was I?

A sinful one. Just like the rest of humanity. But the beauty of being a disciple of Christ is that we don’t have to stay there. We’re not enslaved to sin anymore (Rom. 6:6). So I began praying for God to fill my heart with love for this person. And he answered. So much so that when they moved away my heart ached to see them go.

This is the transforming grace of God. If you find in your heart a struggle to love someone in your life, whether they’ve hurt you or not, you must believe that God can change your heart. He can fill you with love for that person as he molds you into the likeness of Christ.

Will you recognize the requirement for extra grace that resides in your heart? Will you commit to praying for help to love that person? May we lay aside our selfish ambitions and seek to display Jesus to the world as we love others not for what they can give us, but because of what we've already been given: namely, Jesus.

Brittany Allen is a follower of Christ, wife to James, and Momma to three in Heaven. She exists to bring God glory and prays her writing is an avenue for that. She longs to help other women make Jesus their ultimate Treasure. Find her writing on her personal blog as well as Unlocking the Bible, Whole Magazine, Servants of Grace, and a few other Christian websites. You can also follow along on Instagram @brittleeallen or Twitter @BritLeeAllen.