Loving like Jesus can be painful. Sometimes it hurts. Loving other people sometimes means telling them what they need to hear, rather than what they might want to hear, and it may break our hearts to do so. Loving others often means walking through difficult times with them and grieving with them as they grieve. Sometimes, loving others the way Jesus does may mean sacrificing to our own hurt. As we find ourselves in one, or all, of these situations, we can be encouraged by knowing that Jesus loved in these same ways.
Jesus told people what they needed to hear.
Jesus did not seem to worry about how people would respond to what he said to them. He didn’t stress about whether or not they would accept His teaching. He didn’t couch His instructions in words that would make them easier to swallow. He didn’t cater to people’s sensitivities or insecurities. Jesus told the truth. Period. He said what people needed to hear. He held out the truth in love, but He held out the truth unapologetically.
When a woman was caught in adultery was brought before Jesus, He did not condemn her, but He did instruct her to change her ways. He said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more” (John 8:11).
Once Jesus was speaking to some Jews who claimed to have Abraham as their father, but Jesus rebuked them because they were not doing what Abraham did. He told them, instead, that the devil was their father and they were following his desires. He said, “Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God” (John 8:47). These are not what we would consider gentle words. These are words of rebuke and condemnation, but these are the words that needed to be said, and Jesus said them.
Jesus often rebuked the Pharisees for their hypocritical ways. He said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in”. (Matthew 23:13). He also called them whitewashed tombs, “which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness” (Matthew 23:27). He did not seem to be worried about being politically correct or not offending them. Jesus spoke the rebuke they needed to hear.
Jesus did not just speak words of rebuke or condemnation to those who were not His followers, He also rebuked His own disciples and those who were seeking to obey His teachings. When the disciples were not able to perform certain miracles, He told them that they had little faith (Matthew 17:20). When they fell asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane, He rebuked them for not staying awake to pray. Jesus chided, “Could you not watch one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Mark 14:37-38).
As we minister to people and truly seek to love them well, we are going to have times when loving them means saying what they need to hear. Exhorting people does not always mean saying words of encouragement. Sometimes the most loving thing we can do is to speak a word of correction or rebuke. It may be uncomfortable or even painful to speak the truth, but that is the example Jesus set for us.
Jesus walked with people through difficult times.
Much of Jesus’ earthly ministry revolved around meeting people in their times of crisis or tragedy. Jesus came along side people who had ill or dying loved ones, people who were ill or dying themselves, people who were demon possessed, and people who had lost all hope. He healed all sorts of diseases and illnesses (Matthew 4:23, Luke 4:30). He cast out demons. He even raised Lazarus from the dead. And as He ministered to people in these situations, He also comforted them and sometimes even grieved with them. At the tomb of Lazarus, Jesus wept (John 11:35). He felt compassion for those He served, even though He knew that Lazarus was about to be raised to life.
Loving others means walking with them through difficult seasons of life. We may find ourselves comforting a family when a loved one dies, walking beside someone as they battle a terminal illness, or weeping with someone when their child is living in sin. Walking through the valleys of life with others can weigh on our own hearts, but we are called to mourn with those who mourn and to rejoice with those who rejoice (Romans 12:15). Mourning involves crying and grieving. Mourning is painful, but it is part of loving others well.
Jesus sacrificed to His own hurt.
Jesus often went without what we might consider necessities such as food, sleep, or minimal comforts for the sake of His earthly ministry to people. Sometimes He went out to a mountain to pray all night (Luke 6:12). Other times He seemingly taught the people for hours on end without food (Matthew 14). Jesus traveled long days through dusty streets without a place to lay His weary head (Luke 9:58). His entire earthly ministry was one of personal sacrifice for the benefit of those He served. Ultimately, Jesus sacrificed in the most painful way imaginable. He sacrificed His own body on the cross as a substitute for all those who would follow Him.
Loving others wells often means sacrificing of ourselves. We may be called upon to give of our time, our resources, or our personal preferences. Some Christ-followers are even called to give their very lives for the sake of the gospel.
Whatever sacrifices we make, we can be sure that when loving others is painful, we can take comfort and encouragement in knowing that Jesus also experienced the pain of loving others during His earthly ministry. He goes before us as our example, and He walks beside us as our support when loving others hurts.