Called to Love Everyone
When my son was around eight years old, I asked him which kids he liked to play with at school. He said, “Mommy, that’s too hard to answer.” When I asked, “Why?” He replied, “Because I love everyone. You see, God gave me a big heart and that is why I love everyone.” Out of the mouth of babes. My young son had reminded me of the truth. We are called to love all, including the folks who may leave little thorns of irritation in us. I think God gives each of us a “big” heart but if we don’t exercise it regularly, it gets weak. Cue the music for Mr. Grinch. 🙂
This summer, my daughter and I read a book by Bob Goff called Everybody Always. Bob talks about how God does not ask us to just give and receive love but to become love. “People who are becoming love see the beauty in others even when their off-putting behavior makes for a weird mask.” He goes on to say that Jesus asks us to love everyone, all the time. Of course, it is important to give plenty of space to those individuals who are unsafe or toxic. Bob sums it up well, “There’s a difference between good judgment and living in judgment.
“Jesus gives us clear instruction in Matthew 5: 43-48.“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Basically, love the Lord with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your strength, love your neighbor as yourself, AND love and pray for your enemy. We can often be confused about who is our enemy. In this case, Jesus is speaking about folks who are more difficult to get along with or perhaps have different views than us.
So, how do we become love and love everyone always? Jesus taught us to always begin with prayer. Pray to the Holy Spirit and humbly implore His assistance to speak and act through us. If we remain close to the Vine [Jesus], we will bear fruit. The first of the 12 fruits of the Holy Spirit is charity. Charity and love are often interchangeable, but they are not the same. Charity is the kind of love that we are called to have as Christians. It means that we are enthusiastically loving people because we see them as God does. Charity is loving with pure intentions and it is active.
Another thing we can do is look to the examples of the Saints! St. Therese the Little Flower had to live with a very difficult nun who always rubbed her the wrong way. Instead of avoiding her or thinking less of her, she sought her out! St. Therese made every effort to see God in her, responding to her with big smiles and kindness. She also prayed for her every day.
Bob Goff offers the suggestion of loving difficult people for 30 seconds and when those 30 seconds are up, add another 30 seconds, and so on. He truly cares for people and he demonstrates that it in many ways, one of which is through his organization, Love Does, which helps vulnerable children in war-torn countries. Bob offers his email and cell phone number at the back of the book because people are his passion. You guessed it, I called him. He answered the phone and we had a lovely chat! I asked him if people were really struggling with loving Everybody Always, what could they do? He said, “Well with any goal, just break it down. Start with Somebody Sometimes, then Somebody Always, then Many People Sometimes then Many People Always, and then go all out with Everybody Always! Just start with one person.” Can you think of one person? I once heard the expression, “Wounded people wound people.” It does not excuse horrible behavior but it does help to be more understanding and compassionate.
Many holy people have encouraged me to pray to my Guardian Angel and the other person’s Guardian angel. They can help bring about a fruitful and peaceful interaction. For those especially challenging people or situations, I think of St. Joan of Arc who marched bravely into battle holding a banner that had an image of Christ holding the world and on each side of Him an angel. Written above Him was: Jhesus Maria. She held Christ between herself and the enemy. Wearing a crucifix or having one on us reminds us that Jesus goes before us. “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deuteronomy 31:8
Ask the Lord to place His image on each people you meet or converse with each day. It’s hard not to be loving when you imagine the Lord upon them.
Some words of wisdom from a very holy woman, Mother Angelica:
“Saints are ordinary people who love Jesus, try to be like him, are faithful to the duties of their state in life, sacrifice themselves for their neighbor, and keep their hearts and minds free of this world.”
“Love is what the Lord asks of us. If we must love even our enemies, imagine how we are expected to love our family members.” Mother Angelica
Let us ask the Holy Spirit to help us love everyone as brothers and sisters in Christ! As St. Peter said, “Love covers a multitude of sins.” Be assured of my prayers for you! I love you in Him!