Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;

if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.

In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 12:9-21

In the style of Forrest Gump, I think there is a truth we need to consider, “People are like a box of chocolates…ya don’t get to choose who you’re gonna love.” God calls us to love ALL people…even the difficult to swallow ones.

All of us have that one person who just gets under our skin. They are hard to love. They certainly haven’t shown love to us. But in God’s strength, we can push past human emotions and extend love for two reasons. First, ALL of us are made in God’s image and therefore we ALL deserve to be treated with love, respect and kindness.Second, if God, the greatest being in the universe, can show love to us who trample His heart daily, then isn’t it fitting that we, too, can try to love others? If the tables were turned in our situations, wouldn’t we want to be shown love, grace and compassion?

This doesn’t mean we are doormats and allow abuse in our lives. Sometimes we have to separate from unhealthy people for a season. It just means that we act in a peaceable manner toward all, and show the love of Christ always—even if the most loving thing is to set appropriate boundaries.

As a kid in high school, I had a teacher who was just awful. It was difficult to be in her class. At the end of the year, it was my family’s practice to give gifts to teachers to say thank you. I ran into a dilemma with this teacher. Why give a gift to someone so hard and calloused? However, I decided to give love as freely as it had been given to me by Christ. I gave my gift the last day of school. The look on her face was stunned. I am not sure if my gift changed anything in her, but it changed something in me. It helped me see the love of Christ for all people more clearly.

This week, engage in a creative practice. Think of that person who irritates you. Write their name on several 3×5 cards, and place them in your car, on your fridge, or on your desk. Each time you see this person’s name, stop and pray for them. Usher in the peace and love of Christ in their lives. They truly do not need our judgement, but they do need our love.

By Sheila Rennau