I was thinking about the Grinch recently. You know, the one whose heart was two sizes too small. I know it isn’t Christmas, but I met a person who had a heart that seemed too small. He was doling out love with a thimble and seemed afraid to let anyone get too close to him. One of the problems with a person like that is their heart continues to shrink as they limit the number of people they love. If someone disappoints them or hurts them, they stop loving. Eventually their hearts are two sizes too small and they are alone.
Christians cannot be people with hearts that are two sizes too small. We are called to love as Jesus loves us and that means we are not able to exclude anyone from our love list. Unconditional love is the hallmark of Jesus and our hearts need to be like his. That doesn’t mean we approve of everything a person does or that we have to put up with abuse. But it does mean that we love everyone, no matter who they are.
Is it easy to love as Jesus loves? Of course not! Most of our hearts are two sizes too small when it comes to unconditional love. We would love to cross people off our love list. But Jesus never crosses us off, no matter what we do. No matter how many times we betray or deny or turn away, Jesus still loves us just the same. He hopes that we will come back. He yearns for our hearts to grow.
I have three suggestions for learning to love people. They are not particularly profound and this short list isn’t exhaustive. But they are effective for helping your heart grow.
- Look for the good in everyone. I have to admit it is hard to find good in some people. Our current president is especially challenging for me. But I think we can find something good in most people. When we focus on the good, people notice it and don’t feel judged or condemned. This makes it easier to talk to them, get to know their hearts, and accept them for who they are. I always want to add a next step of getting them to be more like me, but God may be calling me to be more like them. If my heart is closed to others who are different, I will never hear God speaking.
2. Treat the person as you believe Jesus would treat them. This is what I go to when I’m having trouble with #1. When I was in college I had a friend who was the most annoying person in the world. I learned to open my heart to her and love her by treating her as I thought Jesus would. I listened to her, learned from her, and eventually we became real friends. Treating someone with love, compassion, and kindness exercises our hearts and helps them to grow. And if I am finding this really difficult, I just remember Proverbs 25:21-22. “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. For in so doing, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.”
3. Remember what you owe God. When I have a hard time loving someone, it is usually because I feel superior to them. I need to remember that I am a sinner and that God sees all sin the same. Salvation is a gift offered to all, not just those who “deserve” it. In fact, if we think we deserve it, we certainly don’t. Remembering with gratitude this gift given even to me helps my heart grow. A thankful heart has plenty of room for God and for others.
Is your heart two sizes too small? We all struggle with unlovable people in our lives. But when we look for the good, treat the person as Jesus would treat them, and remember what we owe God, our hearts can grow. We can learn to love as Jesus loves us.