by Erin Bird
So how’s your Christmas season going thus far? According to the Christmas songs, this should be your favorite time of year.
But is it?
When you are at the office Christmas party, and John has had a little too much to drink and begins to dance with the plant in the corner of the hotel ballroom, you begin to wonder if this really is your favorite time of year.
Or when Aunt Sally launches into another opinionated tirade right as the family sits down for Christmas dinner, you roll your eyes and wonder why people say this is the most wonderful time of the year.
To be quite honest, it can be quite difficult to love certain people this time of the year. How do you show love to someone you would rather bash on the noggin with the elf on the shelf?
Well, if you don’t want to spend your Christmas in jail for assault, here’s some advice:
It’s seems cliché and overly-Christian-y, but you really should try it. If you know you are headed into a situation where you’d rather deck someone than deck the halls, pray before you walk in. Ask God to help you love like Jesus loved. (Because some of those Pharisees that judged Jesus were mighty irritating, but we don’t see Jesus sticking those dudes on the cross. Rather he died for them and their sin.)
Oftentimes when you pray for someone, you end up caring about them. So the starting point to Love All is to pray for those you struggle with.
Make a plan for what you are going to do when Grandpa starts complaining about a fringe political issue that no one else even cares about. What would show love to him and help him be emotionally healthy? Is it listening? Is it to calmly walk away? Is it to gently share an opposing view and help him see that he isn’t nearly as right as he thinks? Prepare now for what would truly help the other person feel loved without enabling him or her to offend others.
In other words, apply Peter’s advice: “[I]n your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” (1 Peter 3:15)
Last week, we looked at the topic of Give More. What could you give to the “extra-grace-required” person in your life that will communicate the love of God to them without giving them continued permission to be a jerk? It could be a meaningful present, it could be something homemade, it could be your time, or maybe you could give a donation to a cause in their name.
As Proverbs 25:21-22 says: “If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.”
A Real Life Example
I remember a couple years ago, a friend of mine was complaining about her husband. They weren’t getting along. He was spending his time on things of which she didn’t approve, and he knew she was silently judging him. Even the kids were noticing the tension at home.
Because she knows I am a pastor, she asked me what she should do as a Jesus-follower. After we talked through some of what the Bible says about marriage and her role as a wife, I asked what her husband’s love language was. She said, “Gift giving.” So I suggested she get him a gift to indicate she still loved him and that he is important to her.
She glared at me for a moment, then grunted, “Darn it! You’re right. I don’t like it, but you’re right!”
Well, that very night, she was browsing a clearance rack and found some super-soft pajama pants at an amazingly low price. Immediately she knew her husband would love them. She told me she didn’t want to do anything nice for him, but she sensed God telling her to get them. So she prayed God would change her heart toward her husband as she threw the pajama bottoms into her shopping cart.
Well, guess what… it worked! Her husband LOVED the gift, felt incredibly honored, and then apologized for his behavior and decisions. She was overwhelmed that because:
- she had prayed about the situation,
- made a plan (reluctantly) to show love,
- then gave him something,
it helped to repair the breach they were both feeling in their relationship.
I can’t guarantee if you follow my friend’s actions, you’ll also experience immediate relational connection. But I do know that God calls you to love.
And yes, that includes your crazy Uncle Joe with his wacky conspiracy theories.