I remember once I used to work in a restaurant. I worked alongside a man who was only a few years older than me, but he acted like the Great Old Wise One when it came to religion.
His name was Bill. I didn’t dislike him, but he wasn’t my favorite coworker, either. He was continually trying to argue with me about why Christianity was no good, or trying to bait me or debate me all the time about Christianity and other religions.
The first time I ever had an experience where the Lord suddenly gave me an insight, a strong word of knowledge, to share, it happened to be about Bill’s spiritual search.
He told me he’d tried church, then Buddhism, then all sorts of other religions, and he’d concluded that he was an atheist or, at the very least, an agnostic because none of them felt real or seemed true. The Spirit of God showed me something and it popped right out of my mouth! I told him with firm boldness that he was not an agnostic or an atheist because he’d gone on a search for the true and living God, had some idea what He was really like, and hadn’t found Him in all those empty places, and he was reserving his allegiance for the one true God.
We both knew that those words hadn’t come from me! We looked at each other, awestruck with our eyes and mouths wide open. He was less antagonistic toward me after that encounter.
We have all been assigned by the Lord to love that “difficult person” whom we just don’t like. He, or she, could be a coworker, a classmate, a cousin, a neighbor, an employer, or an ex-. Is it possible to love someone we don’t like?
It sure is easier to pray that the Lord take this cup from us! Sometimes He does. And He sometimes doesn’t.
What’s that all about? Why can’t we just pray them away or avoid them as much as we can? What possible good could come out of loving the person we don’t like, except for their salvation (they obviously need to GET SAVED, and then they’ll stop being a pain in our backside and be nice to us, right?)?
The reason why loving the person you don’t like is relevant for Christian singles is at least threefold:
1) As believers, we are called to love our enemies, to love the unlovable. That command doesn’t depend on our marital status.
2) When we love like Jesus loves, we often will win a hearing for the gospel. The Lord’s command to evangelize also does not depend on our marital status.
3) It’s unexpected practice for marriage. If you have been married before, you already know: sometimes the person you like the least is your spouse!
Do these make sense?
Jesus told us in Matthew 5:38–48 that we are to demonstrate our distinctiveness as followers of Christ by loving our enemies. Who does that? Jesus does! Jesus loved His enemies, even Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Him.
My dear Christian single friend, if we claim to be followers of Christ, then we can’t pick and choose which part of His life or His commands we will follow; we are to do as He says and as He does. The Christian life is not a potluck.
When we get married, if one day our spouse turns into a complete knucklehead or Jezebel and acts like our enemy for a day, we don’t get to worm out of the commandment to love, since we are to love our enemies! What?!
Let me be clear: I am not saying that we do not set and enforce limits on poor behavior from someone we love. I am saying that enemies do not respect limits, but we are to love them anyway and trust the rest to God.
Believe me, I understand how difficult this is! I have had many opportunities since Bill to practice loving people I don’t necessarily like, or who at least hate me, whether for a truth or for a lie. You can’t win them all. But it’s not our job to win a popularity contest. Our job is to love our enemies, whether they are hardcore enemies or temporary enemies, the way Christ did.
And He sure did it in many ways—sometimes He spoke sobering, truthful words (Matthew 26:20-25); sometimes He gave them a title that they did not deserve (Matthew 26:48-50); sometimes He was silent (John 8:2-9); sometimes He cried over their stubbornness (Matthew 23:37-39); sometimes He prayed (Luke 22:31-34); and sometimes He confronted them (Acts 9:1-6). He died for all of them.
Likewise, we—and I—must die to our natural inclinations to hate our enemies (Galatians 2:20). Loving those who have made themselves an enemy is one of the hardest things I have to continue to practice. It helps to know that dying to my natural urges and inclinations against those who cross me prepares me for marriage.
I have no illusions about marriage being a continual, blissful high where never is heard a discouraging word and the skies are not cloudy all day. (No, I’m not from Texas! Hahaha) I know there will be great days and there will be really bad days. I know there will be days when he is my king and I’m the queen, of an amazing universe that we have created. And I know that there will be days when I want to drop kick him into the dog house (for comic relief on this hard topic of marriage preparation, turn briefly to this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Twivg7GkYts).
There will be anger and disappointments and conflicts and misunderstandings and difficult decisions in marriage. He will cause some of the problems, and I will cause some of the problems. I need to get in some good practice now on how to love, serve, and submit to a husband who’s sick or being irritated, cantankerous, proud, or unreasonably demanding at the moment.
The lessons tend to be shorter, the earlier in your Christian walk you learn them. So I will continue to learn to love my enemies using the methods Jesus used and letting Him file away the methods I tend to use in my flesh to push back enemy tactics. I sure hope my husband-to-be feels the same way and is getting in some good practice, since I am not perfect “Proverbs 31” wife material!
BTW, I never knew if Bill ever received the Lord later in life after I left that restaurant. But, unbeknownst to us, there was a third person watching us interact. I think his name was Ken. He was quiet. We never talked much as we hustled and bustled around that kitchen doing food prep, cooking, and grilling.
One day years later, I was singing in the choir on a Sunday morning and saw a man walk into the lobby who looked a lot like Ken. However, he looked like he had a wife and a baby with him. After the service I went to greet him and discovered it was Ken! He told me he used to listen to Bill and I talk about faith and religion. He began to seek the Lord and eventually became a believer. He later married a Christian woman and started a family, and they were looking for a church to call home. They joined ours and were still there when I left to move to another part of the country.
So, as you are praying over and trying to love your enemies, you never know who else might be watching and being won by the Lord. Let learning to love your enemies become good practice for marriage!