How much should we actively love those who don’t reciprocate?
My modus operandi has been to continually expend myself to show love to others, no matter what they do. Isn’t this what Christians do?
Much of my motivation comes from a desire to make each person know that they are important. No one else might reach out to them, or be faithful to them, but I will. Maybe this motivation comes from wanting to treat others the way I wish I would have been treated over the years.
And certainly Jesus considers each one of us as important, so important that he died for us. In spite of our sins. In spite of us being responsible for his death.
But lately I’ve been challenged to reevaluate how I spend my time and attention — challenged to not keep giving to those who don’t really respond. And I’ve struggled with this. Is this Christ’s example? Aren’t we all weak at times? Wasn’t I once where they were?
When I researched this, a contrary view hit me right in the face. The Bible clearly says there are times that we DON’T keep reaching out.
- Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. 2 Thes 3:6
- I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. Rom 16:7
- I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people. . . But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people. I Cor 5:9, 11
- Take special note of anyone who does not obey our instruction in this letter. Do not associate with them, in order that they may feel ashamed. Yet do not regard them as an enemy, but warn them as you would a fellow believer. 2 Thes 3:14
- . . . having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people. 2 Tim 3:5
- If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take them into your house or welcome them. Anyone who welcomes them shares in their wicked work. 2 John 1:10
I know, I know. That’s all a bit harsh. These verses don’t apply to most of my situations. But they do remind me that God doesn’t mean for me to always keep giving to people, no matter what.
It’s true that I must love others, even my enemies. I must wash their feet, serve them, be willing to die for them.
But I am not to throw my pearls before swine.
Jesus didn’t run repeatedly after people. He did reach out to them. He did tell them the truth that would help them. He did heal them.
But he also told them, “Come, follow me.” He expected them to show some initiative.
There is such an emphasis in the Bible on being a seeker. One of the first verses we study with people is Jeremiah 29:13: “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” I was reading II Chronicles today, and it says in 15:15, “They sought God eagerly, and he was found by them. So the Lord gave them rest on every side.”
Christianity is unique in that God pursues man. But God also wants man to put some effort into pursuing Him.
The writer of Hebrews told people they needed to grow up and start eating solid spiritual food: “In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!” Heb 5:12
Maybe I am babying people too much. Maybe I am doing them a disservice by allowing them to just be receivers, instead of expecting them to step up and take ownership. I am not helping them to mature.
And I am not helping them to have the joy they could have. When they don’t do things for themselves, they don’t see the value in it. They are not recognizing their great treasure. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matt 6:21)
So my conclusion at this point is that I will LOVE EVERYONE. My hand will always be out to them. But I will also. . .
- Look for those who are seeking God. God is working on certain individuals. “For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction.” (I Thes 1:4-5)
- Expect people to take the initiative. Both seekers and disciples need to take ownership of their spiritual growth, and not sit back and be given to all the time.
Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone. I Thes 5:14