Learning to Love Those You Don't Like

Jan Johnson* knew an older woman who found the pastor annoying--so much so that she couldn't stand to listen to his sermons. She wanted to change, so led by God, she started to attend the pastor's weekly Bible study and offered to fix the coffee. Jan noticed that this woman seemed to sleep through most of the study so Jan asked if she was tired. As they talked, she revealed to Jan her problem and the Spirit-suggested solution, saying, "I find myself praying for the pastor during the study. This has helped me see him differently. It was the best thing I could have done." 

She inspired Jan to do some odd things. After a meeting at church, Jan noticed she was parked next to someone she'd found irritating in the meeting. The ash from a recent wild fire covered all of our cars, so she got a duster from her trunk and gently wiped off his car. The movement was a prayer of sorts--one she was too annoyed to have verbalized--and by the time she was done, her heart was right toward him again. 

One day as she was hiking, her thoughts turned to Alice, a church friend who was being unkind and spiteful toward another friend. How could her friend act with such venom? Yet Jan felt guilty about her inability to love her. 

As Jan plopped down on the side of the trail under a willow tree, the phrase "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" came to mind (Matt 5:44).

Alice wasn't her enemy but she certainly didn't love her. She tried to pray for Alice but didn't know what to say, so she borrowed ideas from Philippians 1:9-11: that her love would abound more and more; that her knowledge and discernment would increase. After a few months of praying that (and learning to mean it), Jan began to be able to speak kindly toward her again and to genuinely care about what was happening in her life. 

Thank You, Lord, for giving us Your ideas and the grace we need to love those who annoy us.

"Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse" (Rom. 12:14).

*Adapted from her book Invitation to the Jesus Life