Of Course I Cared
August 15, 2023
“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:27-28, NIV).
Before we could even get to his chronic leukemia, he opened the conversation, “My father passed.”
“I am so sorry,” I said.
“It’s worse than that,” he continued. “No one told me. He died three months ago.”
“Why’s that?” I asked.
“He and I weren’t close. He lived up north. My brother just mentioned it casually when I phoned him the other day. ‘Oh, Dad passed in March,’ he said, like he was mentioning the weather.”
“I asked him why he was just now telling me, and he said, ‘I thought you didn’t care.’
“Of course, I cared. My dad and I didn’t get along, and I didn’t like him much, but he was my father, and I cared for him.”
What’s this about caring for people you don’t like?
Seems like a contradiction, but it’s as biblical as it gets. In fact, it’s one of the major revolutionary teachings of Christ Jesus, one that made the Sermon on the Mount, one that flies in the face of natural thinking, one that changed the world.
“You have heard it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:43-44, NIV).
This request from our Lord doesn’t make sense to most of us, but it does to Jesus, and He explains why, “…that you may be children of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:45a, NIV). Jesus is saying, “Be like this, because God is like this, and His children should follow in His footsteps.”
I had to learn this on the ground with the chief of medicine who criticized me unfairly, the volunteer missionary who was arrogant with my patients in Nigeria, the administrator whose pride blocked effective patient care, the teacher who verbally abused my daughter in school and others along the way. I did not like these people, but I learned to care for them because Christ cares for them, and He died for me when I was not likable.
All of us have struggled with people who have irritated us, or over-used us, or harmed those we love. I know of Christians who have learned to love those who have harmed them much more severely with persecution, physical injury or death. I hear their stories and weep at their likeness to Christ, wondering if I might ever be that Christ-like, not wanting to suffer enough to find out.
My patient above is a pastor, and he “gets it”—God asks us to love those we don’t like. Even if we don’t feel it, He wants us to will it until it’s true. He wants us to care for those we don’t like so that those we don’t like may use our caring as a pathway to Jesus.
Help me care for all, even those I don’t like, with the love of Jesus.