Sow & Gather

Loving the Unlovely

loveMarci AnthonyComment

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.  Matthew 5:46-48 NIV 

I don’t remember when I first encountered the phrase, “extra grace required”. I think I first read it in a Bible study book that urged me to love the unlovely and to love people that are unlike us. I’ve since heard the phrase pop up many times at church. To use a cliché phrase, it’s usually used like this: “Bless her heart, she’s just one of those extra grace required people.”   

The “extra grace required” label is usually applied to someone who is maybe a little needy, maybe dominates discussions too much, and maybe is a little socially awkward. It’s the person that you perhaps don’t go out of your way to greet on a Sunday morning. It’s someone whose call you let go to voicemail because you don’t have an extra hour to listen to their un-ending monologue about their problems. 

Here’s the problem though …. we’re all "extra grace required" people. If God only poured His love on the lovely, on the kind, on the worthy, we’d all be left out of that loop. To judge someone else as “extra grace required” means that you may not realize how much grace you yourself require from God and from others.   

Romans 5:8 reminds us, “But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” He didn’t love us because we were lovely.  We are utterly unlovely in His sight because of our sin. The astounding thing about grace is that we receive that love even though we deserve wrath and hate.  God loves like that, and we are urged to love like that. “Be perfect, therefore, as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” It’s a tall order and impossible for us to do in our own strength. But with God’s help we can start to love more perfectly. 

It’s comfortable and easy to love someone who loves you back. But as Jesus pointed out in Matthew 5:46-48, pretty much everyone loved the lovely. The corrupt tax collectors loved people who loved them. The pagans (those with no connection to God) went out of their way to greet their friends.  

We are to be different from the world. How we can stand out from the world is not on how much we love our friends, but how much we love the unlovely. 

In this season where romantic love is celebrated, it's important to remember we are called to not just love our spouses, our families, our friends, our fellow believers, but to love and extend friendship to all…even the “extra grace required” and unlovely. Love sacrificially. Love without condition. Love as God loves you. 

Dig Deeper |

Matthew 5Ephesians 4:1-7 

Action Item | 

Take a hard look at your life.  Are there people you exclude from your circle of friends because they are “extra grace required”?  Ask God to open your eyes to your prejudices and help you love like He loves. 

Prayer | 

Father, I can never be perfect as you are perfect, Help me to see others through your eyes. Let me overflow with your love. Let that love transform the lives of all those I touch. I want to make you known. Amen. 

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