How then do we love?

Can we love someone when it's hard to love? That seems to be something that our team has been doing unintentionally. During intercessory prayer in the past few weeks, we've prayed for Turkey, Russia, and North Korea, among others. We've prayed against discrimination and for unity in the church. We started to notice a pattern of dying to our own wishes, praying for the hard places, and forgiving those we hated. 

Is this even possible? Can we love someone even if we can't understand them? When we don't speak their language or know their culture? When every decision or action seems backward and foreign and frustrating? And, in addition to all that, they have a completely different personality. Can we love them?

 Sasha and I have made huge strides in our relationship recently. It's been very encouraging to watch her start to initiate affection on her own despite our differences.

Sasha and I have made huge strides in our relationship recently. It's been very encouraging to watch her start to initiate affection on her own despite our differences.

Can we love somebody when they can't speak at all? I don't think I'm allowed to post pictures, but there was a very sweet lady I connected with at Plyskiv, the institution for adults with special needs. She could not talk or make any sounds at all. But they told me she loves to dance, so I immediately went and danced with her. And when I looked into her eyes they were "normal." I didn't see the rest of her that the world called disfigured. They were beautiful eyes. She was beautiful.

What about someone we've never met? Can we love them? There's a little girl in Russia who turns 7 this month. Her name is Jessa. A child with so much potential, but the rest of the world can't see it because she has Down Syndrome. Jessa doesn't have a chance of finding a family within Russian borders, and because of the adoption ban 3 years ago, she can't have a loving American family either. My heart breaks for her, and it hurts because I will never know what happened.

Can we love someone who is seemingly impossible to love? Someone who we harbor anger and resentment for? What if they hold authority over us? Even if they scare us, can we love them as part of God's kingdom, as one of his children? Can we apologize for our harsh feelings and forgive them? I know that I personally can. I did it a few weeks ago for President Vladamir Putin. I no longer hate (Yes, I actually did hate him for awhile.) him for what he did to sweet Jessa. I'm not even angry at him anymore. I'm still heartbroken over the situation, but I've forgiven.

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Many Americans are happy with Trump's victory. But there are plenty of others who are angry and scared and hateful. If you are one of those people, can you forgive him? Can you learn to respect him as our leader and pray for him? I know it's hard. This was a tough election, and I was never going to be exactly thrilled with whoever won. But guess what? God loves Donald Trump. And He wants us to love him, too, whether or not we voted for him. The Bible tells us to love our neighbors and our enemies. 

Can we love the strangers, the people on the street? The homeless, who smell but still need care and the love of Jesus. The Muslims and the atheists who just want a friend. The refugees, who are scared of deportation. The orphans, who have no one to care for them. The drug addicts? Today, our team spent four hours at a Christian rehab center outside the city. We sang a few songs, our guest speaker spoke for over an hour, then we prayed for two hours straight. It was hard, it was scary, especially if you didn't know the language, but we persevered. Can we love the people who are different from us? Can we love the sinners?

Hey, you know who actually did all these things?

 "Prince of Peace," by child prodigy Akiane Kramarik.

"Prince of Peace," by child prodigy Akiane Kramarik.

Oh yeah, that's right. Jesus. And that means we can do that too, surprising as it may sounds. Because if Jesus lives in us, then we have his power and capability to love. Through Him, we can love everyone, regardless of race, gender, culture, religion, sexuality, or political beliefs. So I have a final question for you, and this one is not hypothetical. Today, what are you going to do to show God's love? It's not enough to just know that God wants us to love. We have to get out and actually DO IT. In real life, out of our comfort zones. Ask Him, and He'll show you what He wants you to do. Pay for someone's meal. Encourage a mother with a crying baby that she's doing a great job. Introduce yourself to someone while standing in line. Go talk to your neighbor that you haven't talked to in awhile. Get off your phone, get off Facebook, and engage. Love. 

Don't just trust me on this. I'll let you discover for yourself how rewarding it is.