Jan wanted to avoid people who irritated her. But the Holy Spirit kept nudging her with this question: What would it look like to love the person in front of you--even if only for the next ten minutes, even if this person annoys you?
One day as she was hiking, her thoughts turned to Alice, a church friend who was being unkind toward another friend. How could this person be so spiteful while wearing the name of Jesus? Yet Jan felt guilty about her inability to love her.
As she dropped down on the side of the trail, the phrase, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" came to mind (Matthew 5:44). Alice wasn't her enemy but she couldn't truthfully say she loved her. So she began to pray borrowing phrases from Paul's prayer in Philippians.
"And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ" (Philippians 1:9-10).
After a few months of praying that (and learning to mean it), she began to be able to genuinely care about what was happening in her life.
Jesus said, "Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you" (Luke 6:28). The word mistreat can mean to falsely accuse, treat abusively, or even to threaten. Praying for those who fall into that category may be the most direct way to love them.
Dear Lord, help us to allow you to work in our hearts as we pray for those who are difficult to love.
"Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you" (Colossians 3:13).
"Be patient with everyone" (1 Thessalonians 5:14).