We all know the command to love our enemies. Jesus expects us to put the best interests of everyone, even our enemies, before our own. But what about those who are not are enemies? Maybe they are friends or family members, or church members, and for various reasons, they are just unlovable? Or what if it’s us who is really difficult for the people around you to love? Do we just suck it up and accept that they are who they are, or we are who we are, and just use the same concept as we do with our enemies?
Join us as we take a Biblical look on how to love those who are difficult and just plain unlovable.
Episode 95 – Loving the Unlovable
Welcome back! Chris, it feels like we just started this series, Real Truth about Real Stuff Round 2, and here we are at the last episode of the series!
Well they say time flies when you’re having fun. We certainly hope everyone has enjoyed this series as much as we have.
And we have another, hopefully great series, beginning next week called Dysfunctional Children, Functional God. But first, let’s finish up Real Truth about Real Stuff Round 2 with this episode called, “Loving the Unlovable.”
We all know the command to love our enemies. Jesus expects us to put the best interests of everyone, even our enemies, before our own. An “enemy” is defined as “a person who feels hatred for, fosters harmful designs against, or engages in antagonistic activities against another; an adversary or opponent.” So we pretty much know what we are getting with our enemies. We aren’t expecting much from them in return.
But what about those who are not are enemies? Maybe they are friends or family members, or church members, and for various reasons, they are just unlovable? Or what if it’s us who is really difficult for the people around you to love? Do we just suck it up and accept that they are who they are, or we are who we are, and just use the same concept as we do with our enemies? Chris, as we always do, let’s look at some worldly views on this subject. Why don’t you start with what makes someone unlovable?
Reddit recently posed this question in an open forum. They asked people to respond with what makes someone unlovable. Here’s some of the answers they received: “A lousy personality and unattractive features.” “Not being clean-cut or being dirty.” “Being Ugly.” “Being Conceited.” “Being insecure about everything and constantly looking for reassurance.”
I don’t think you even need to be a Christian to agree that that list is superficial and ridiculous. But here’s another one, that’s a little more logical, and it looks at this subject on whether you are the one who is unlovable. Bolde magazine, who says their mission is to, “inspire open an uninhibited conversation about what it’s like to be single and dating today, recently published an article called 10 signs that you’re Hard to Love. Here’s their list:
1. You don’t know how to apologize
2. You Never compromise
3. You’re unpredictable
4. You’re flaky or unreliable
5. You hold onto old baggage
6. You put up emotional walls
7. You’re self-destructive
8. You dishonest
9. You’re bad at communicating
10. You don’t believe you deserve to be loved
Yeah. I think most of us can agree that some of the character traits on that list can pose a challenge to make a person loveable. Let’s do another one about why YOU might not be loveable. This is from a psychology group in the UK. They say if you think you are unlovable, it is because you have wrong beliefs about yourself. Some of these wrong beliefs, core beliefs as they call them, people harbor about themselves is:
· I am not good enough to be loved
· I am too ugly/stupid/flawed/damaged to be loved
· There is something really wrong with me that means nobody can love me
· love is for other people, not me
I am a monster that nobody can love
They go on to say that the misbeliefs you just described, Chris, stem from circumstances outside of your control like childhood trauma, childhood sexual abuse, or even if you had the seemingly perfect childhood, if your parents were not empathetic enough or seemed to only show love to you when they were proud of you, this can scar you and make you feel unlovable.
So that is 2 very opposing views. When it comes to being unlovable, one says to take an honest look at yourself and the other says look around you for someone to blame. Sounds familiar from last week’s episode on The Blame Game. Let’s finish up the worldly view by looking at what advice is given if you think you may be unlovable. This is from “The Mighty” and is titled, 17 things to do if you think you are unlovable:
1. Read messages from loved ones
2. Spend time with your pets
3. Spend Extra Time getting ready
4. Take yourself out on a date
5. Shower or take a bath
6. Work out
7. Do something creative
8. Show love to others
9. Look back on photos or memories
11. Give someone a hug
12. Treat Yourself
13. Listen to music
14. Write yourself a love note
15. Take a nap
16. Watch Youtube videos
17. Watch a favorite show or movie
Wow! That’s some pretty solid advice!
We have one secular site that gives a pretty good list of character traits that makes someone unlovable, but gives no advice or teaching on how to overcome them, and a couple of other sites that says if YOU are the one who is unlovable, its all in your head and you just need to distract yourself from that kind of negative thinking. So what’s the truth? Are there legitimate reasons that makes a person, or us, unlovable? And if there is, what do we do about them? And how do we love the person that has traits that make them unpleasant or maybe even impossible to be around? Chris, I think we all know where we need to go for the answers.
We do! The Bible has a lot of examples of people with traits we would say would make it hard to love them. So lets start by looking at some and maybe their personalities and issues will ring true for some of us who may have similar people in our lives, or maybe they will convict us of some of our own issues. The first is Jacob. Jacob’s very name means “heel grasper” which was an ancient slang for conman. And Jacob lives up to the hype. A familiar passage from Gen. 25:29 – 34 shows us Jacob’s nature, “Once when Jacob was cooking stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was exhausted. 30 And Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red stew, for I am exhausted!” (Therefore his name was called Edom. 31 Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright now.” 32 Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?” 33 Jacob said, “Swear to me now.” So he swore to him and sold his birthright to Jacob. 34 Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.”
So Jacob shows his true colors by taking advantage of his brother’s hunger and stupidity. And it doesn’t end there. Jacob cheats his brother out of the blessing of the first born – something which God had already said would be Jacob’s – but instead of trusting God in that, he and his mother take matters into their own hands. You would think Jacob would learn his lesson after being cheated by his uncle, but he doesn’t. In fact, he pays back his uncle’s dishonesty by “rigging” the herds of livestock so he got all of the best ones. Besides being a cheat and deceiver, Jacob’s life is marked by showing favoritism to his wives and his children, being a lousy father, being passive aggressiveness, being selfish, and looking at life through the lens of how it affected him. I would say, Jacob definitely would qualify as someone who is hard to love.
Proverbs 6:12 – 15 has something to say about anyone who may be like Jacob, “Worthless person, a wicked man, goes about with crooked speech, winks with his eyes, signals with his feet, points with his finger, with perverted heart devises evil, continually sowing discord; therefore calamity will come upon him suddenly; in a moment he will be broken beyond healing.” Barnes says this, “This is the portrait of the man who is not to be trusted, whose look and gestures warn against him all who can observe. His speech is tortuous and crafty; his wink tells the accomplice that the victim is already snared; his gestures with foot and hand are half in deceit, and half in mockery.”Perhaps some of us have a Jacob in our life, or maybe we have some of Jacob’s traits in us
Moving onto someone else who was unlovable, at least early in their lives, partially as a result of Jacob’s lousy parenting skills and showing favoritism is his son, Joseph. When we first meet Joseph in Genesis, he is a bratty, obnoxious teenager who took great pleasure on tattling on his brothers and throwing in their face and his parents that a dream showed him he would be above them all one day. And we all probably know the story. Joseph is so unlovable, his brothers decide to get rid of him just so they don’t have to deal with him anymore.
It’s too bad the Proverbs weren’t written yet when Joseph lived. He could have learned a lot from them. On being a know-it-all and just generally obnoxious, Proverbs 29:11 says, “A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.” Proverbs 3:7 says, “Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.” And Proverbs 21:23 says, “Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue, keeps himself out of trouble.”
How about bragging? Proverbs is a great place for advice on that, too Proverbs 27:2 says, “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips.” Proverbs 11:2says, “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.” And one that has Joseph’s name written all over it is Proverbs 27:1 which says, “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.”
Joseph not only didn’t have the Proverbs, but he didn’t have Paul to lean on either. Too bad, because Paul has some sound advice for those who are tattletales, looking to get others into trouble. Gal.6:1 says, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.” Do you have a young Joseph in your life? If so, you may not be driven to sell them to a foreign country, but they can be very difficult to love. Are you a Joseph? Can you be an obnoxious, a know-it-all, braggart? Do you thrive on pointing out people’s short comings and your strengths?
And here’s a guy who may be the most unlovable “Bible hero” in all of Scripture – Samson! He was selfish, arrogant, a sex addict, a hot head, immature, and vengeful, and even though his parents received a prophecy about his birth and his purpose, he never once showed that he gave a flip about his purpose or God’s plan for his life. He spent his life pursuing his own interests. He might be the very definition of unlovable!
We hope you don’t have someone exactly like Samson in your life, but maybe you have someone who has some of his traits? Is there a person in your life who only cares about themselves, who has a bad temper, is spiteful, or who is immature and doesn’t listen to any sound advice? Maybe some of us need to ask ourselves with we have any of the traits? These are traits that make a person difficult, and in the extreme, even dangerous to love.
Perhaps Solomon knew this, which is why in Prov 22:24, he gives the advice, “Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man.” And in Prov. 14:17, it says, “A man of quick temper acts foolishly.” I bet we can all think of an example of someone we know or maybe us proving this proverb true!
And how about Samson’s addiction to sex and disregard for marriage? 1 Cor. 6:18 – 20 says, “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” And Heb 13:4 says this about marriage, “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.”
And we could spend the whole episode on Samson’s unlovable qualities, but we will just do one more that may resonate with some of us, and that’s immaturity. Nothing is more frustrating than dealing with someone who just won’t grow up. They are like a child in an adult body. And I don’t mean that they sit around playing video games like a kid, I mean, that even though they are adults, they are as willful, stubborn, and encouragible as a toddler! 1 Cor14:20 says, “Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature.” What Paul means here is in your actions be as innocent as an infant, but be mature and grow up in your thinking.
And of course, the first step to maturity is revealed to us in our favorite verse, Rose, Prov. 9:10. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” I agree that having some of Samson’s traits would make a person difficult to love. And, like you said, Samson may be the very definition of unlovable. But on the opposite side, someone almost everyone would consider very loveable is King David, but he certainly had his share of terrible character traits that would make him difficult to love. We don’t know if he was a sex addict like Samson, or on a major power trip, but after taking many wives and concubines, he still has to force a woman married to another to have sex with him because he thought she was beautiful. And of course, he tries to cover it up and ultimately murders the woman’s husband.
And if he on a bit of a power trip with taking so many wives and concubines, perhaps that same power trip is what drove him to arrogantly count his troops when that was something forbidden to do. David was also similar to Jacob in that he was a passive and pretty lousy father. So do you know anyone with these traits? Someone who doesn’t see monogenism as something to strive for. Maybe dates a lot of different men or women and see them as objects for their own pleasure or agenda. Or maybe its not in the dating realm, but just in the general sense that they see people as a means to get what they want without considering the hurt they may leave in their wake.
Or maybe some of us are like this. We don’t take people’s feelings or best interest into account when we are on a mission to get what we want. Sometimes people are casualties to our wants. Phil. 2:3 tells us, Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.” Paul reiterates this same sentiment in 1 Cor 10:24, “No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.” And James backs it up in James 3:16 “For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.”
How about the apostle Peter? Know anyone like Peter? See Peter in yourself? Impulsive, not always thinking before acting, and unreliable when needed. After telling Jesus emphatically, he could be counted on to stand by Him, he lies and runs at the first sign of real trouble. Many of Peter’s failings are common passages to us.
Like when Jesus told the Apostles about His death and resurrection and as Matthew 16:22 says, “Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” Or when he impulsively cut the ear off of one of the guards that came to arrest Jesus, and of course, after emphatically saying even if everyone else fell away, he would not, he denies Jesus 3 times to keep from getting arrested.
Ecc. 5:2 says, “Do not be hasty in word or impulsive in thought to bring up a matter in the presence of God. For God is in heaven and you are on the earth; therefore let your words be few.” And on speaking or acting before you think, there are 2 great verses in James and Proverbs. James 1:19, Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger. and Proverbs 29:20, “There is more hope for a fool than for someone who speaks without thinking.” Chris, I’m going to confess that I have many times spoken or acted before I really thought about it. I am also impulsive in nature. Both have been things I have really tried to work at since I know those traits have made it difficult to deal with me.
We could keep going on and, but let’s do one more and then start looking at some practical application. Let’s talk about Paul. Paul’s prejudice was so bad, that he wanted those he hated (and he hated them just because of who they followed) he wanted those he hated dead or at least imprisoned. We could liken him to a KKK member or Nazi! Which is pretty incredible that later he would pen in Gal. 3:28, “ There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Racism is a term that is thrown around pretty loosely lately, but if you have someone in your life who is truly racist and prejudice against a certain group of people, it can make it extremely difficult to love them. Or maybe some of us see this trait in ourself.
So what’s the point in telling about all these people in Scripture that had very unlovable qualities? Is it to say that everyone is unlovable at some level? Yes, but it’s not just that. Is it to say that despite having difficult character traits, God raises His people above their lousy character qualities and grows them into who He wants them to be for His purposes? Absolutely, but it’s even more than that. How do we practically deal with those who have character traits that make it hard to love them? Chris, let’s get practical
Let’s start by encourage us all to take a look at ourselves first. We’ll start off with one of our favorite verses, Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Part of not conforming to the world and renewing our mind is rejecting pop psychology that tells you your faults aren’t your fault – like the article we quoted earlier – your parents didn’t raise you right, or you had a childhood trauma. As people of God, we need to be willing to do the hard work of introspection.
And the place to start that introspection, God of course. As James 1:5 tells us, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” We talked about this a few weeks ago, but one prayer God will always answer is if you sincerely go to Him and ask Him to show you your sin. So, if you think you may be someone who for whatever reason is unlovable, the answer is not to take yourself out on a date or spend time with your pets as pop psychology suggests. It’s to get honest with ourselves and with God. And like James said, we don’t have to fear doing this. God already knows every molecule of us, better than we could ever know ourselves, so we won’t be revealing something about ourselves that He doesn’t already know.
And like James said, if we belong to Jesus, our slate has been wiped clean. We’ve already been forgiven of the sin we are looking to reveal and repent of. So we don’t have to fear reproach from God. Once God reveals the sin to us, the hard work of cooperating with the Holy Spirit to mortify that sin and repent of it (meaning turn completely from it and turn towards the things of God) begins. This is how we are sanctified, and this is how we mature in our faith. This is what every Biblical person we listed did. Granted, the Holy Spirit had to get a hold of them first, but they all were able to overcome their very unlovable traits by turning them over to God and turning away from their sinful trait. It’s how they went from unlovable to being used mightily for God. And, again, this is impossible for any of us to do with the Holy Spirit working in us. Okay, let’s spend some time talking about what to do when we aren’t the unlovable one, but its someone in our life, and it is making things difficult.
Chris, let’s start by reading John 13:31 – 38. It says, “When he(meaning Judas Iscariot) had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once. 33 Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.” 37 Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” 38 Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times.” Chris, this may seem like an odd passage to quote given the subject, so why don’t you illuminate us on it.
Well, first, this is obviously at the last supper. There’s a few things to notice. First, Jesus waits to say this until after Judas leaves. This means that what Jesus said, was for His people. Judas did not belong to Him, so Judas has no part in this. That translates to this is not a message for unbelievers, therefore, we should not expect them to follow the same commands we do. And we see this clearly towards the latter part of this passage with Peter. Jesus, obviously knows that both Judas and Peter will betray Him, yet He treats them differently. Peter is going to do something very unlovable – about as unlovable as you can get, yet, by including Peter in the “little children,” referring to those who are His disciples, He is telling Peter that nothing Peter has done or will do can change his status as a child of God. In Mark 4, Jesus tells all His apostles they will fall away, yet that doesn’t change what He says to them here in John. In contrast, Judas was left to his own devices, which ultimately led to him taking his own life.
And to put this in terms that apply to our subject today, because we belong to Jesus, we are saved and sealed for all eternity. Nothing can change our status with God. We are reconciled to God and have a right relationship with Him. Instead of living under 613 laws, we only live under the 10 commandments, and the 2 great laws which actually encompass the 10 commandments – Love God and love others. I’m going to quote Pastor Chris Lenhart. He said Jesus’ mission can be summed up in 6 C’s - Christ the Cornerstone was building a new Community, the Church, uniting them under a new Covenant guided by a new Command.
And that new command is summed up in verse 35 of that John passage - By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” The Old Covenant, the Law, was about keeping rules – it was about responsibilities and obligations. Jesus, though replaces people’s “responsibilities” or “efforts” with love. We don’t have to keep rules or obligations, we just need to love – Love God and love others. Now understand this is love defined by Jesus, not defined by any human or by the world. God has a right way for us to love. And as with everything else, when we stray from God’s right way about anything, and go our own way, it leads to death as Prov 16:25 tells us, “There is a way that seems right to man, but in the end leads to death. This is evident throughout the entire Bible!
It absolutely is, and we showed that through the people we listed. When they did things on their own, they were epic failures. It was only when they did things God’s way, that they succeeded. So how does all this apply to our topic today? People with traits like habitual lying, conceit, arrogance, unreliability, prejudice, etc. are annoying and difficult to be around. We can probably find ourselves not liking them very much and not wanting to be around them. This is “our way.” But it’s not God’s way. And we are called to live life and love people God’s way.
Thankfully, we are never called to “like” anyone. We are called to love them. And, we need to understand that loving people as Jesus commands us to is impossible if it is not guided by the Holy Spirit. With His help, we can learn to make the kind of love Jesus calls us to a daily heart pattern of our life. It’s not based on feelings – ours or the other person’s. In fact, it needs to always prevail despite how we may feel! And that can only be accomplished through the Holy Spirit. We don’t have to emotionally love anyone, but we are required to actively love people. So even if someone in your life is completely unlovable, you need to love them. You may not like them much, but you need to love them – Biblically love them. That means looking out for their best interest. Sometimes that could mean overlooking their flaw, and sometimes that could mean confronting them about it, trying to bring them to repentance.
And, look, I’ll be honest and say that my default is to avoid people who I can’t stand to be around. But doing this episode has really convicted me. Can you imagine if Jesus had only chosen those who had really attractive qualities? Uh, He would have been left with no Apostles! And no followers! The thing about the command Jesus gives His people about loving others is that its all on us. It has nothing to do with the other person. It’s not about their behavior, its about ours! And, I admit, that’s hard to practically live out.
It is. Let’s be honest, it’s hard to put someone who is always lying or who is just an arrogant jerk’s best interest first. But that’s exactly why we need the Holy Spirit to help us. We could never do this on our own – I could never do this on my own! And Jesus isn’t just making us do this to torture us, He tells us why He is commanding us in John 13:35, “ 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” This is how the watching world will know we are disciples of Christ – set apart, different, and holy
Chris, we talked about the need to change our perspective in the lying episode we did. I think loving those who are unlovable requires the same thing. The key to be able to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in this kind of love is to stop thinking all we do and sacrifice for God, but instead, focus on what Jesus has done and sacrificed for us! Spend some time thinking about how unlovable we are, yet Jesus still was willing to be tortured and crucified to bring us to Him.
Think about this – if you were the only person in history that God chose to save, Jesus still would have gone through all He did to save you.
That should definitely humble us. So how do we live this out practically? We said that loving the unlovable may mean overlooking their annoying flaws or it may mean confronting them about it. Which we do, is a decision that should be bathed in prayer and in love. If a trait is just annoying, like bragging all the time or being generally obnoxious, maybe just overlook it. You can try to look for what’s lovable in that person while giving them an example of what true humility looks like. But if it’s something like habitual lying or something else that is outright sinful, the most loving thing you could do is gently confront the person on their sin.
Finally, remember what God did with those unlovable people in the Bible, and remember what He does with and for us, despite our annoying and difficult traits. Also, try to see everyone as someone who was created in the image of God. It really is amazing what a change of perspective will do for you!
That’s all we have time for. Thanks for tuning in! We are very excited to announce that after some delays, The Bible Blueprint, A guide to Better Understanding the Bible from Genesis to Revelation will be released on Aug. 17! Check out our social media pages for more information and consider joining us for Ambassador International’s Christmas in July. Rose and I will be live on July 19 from 9:00 am – 10:00 am EST. where we will reveal the cover to The Bible Blueprint.
Christmas in July is an awesome event. Lots of great authors and lots of giveaways. You can join this event by the link we have posted on our FB, MeWe, and Parler pages. You can also email us at [email protected] and we will send you the link. Have a blessed day!
 "Enemy." Dictionary.com. Accessed July 02, 2021. https://www.dictionary.com/browse/enemy#.
 "R/AskReddit - What Traits Make Someone Unlovable?" Reddit. Accessed July 02, 2021. https://www.reddit.com/r/AskReddit/comments/6tcbxy/what_traits_make_someone_unlovable/.
 Robins, Marie. "10 Signs You're Hard To Love." Bolde. October 16, 2019. Accessed July 02, 2021. https://www.bolde.com/10-signs-youre-hard-to-love/.
 Jacobson, Last Reviewed by Sheri, Terry, Harley Therapy Hi Terry, Harley Therapy, Scott, Harley Therapy Hi Scott, Hannah, Harley Therapy Hi Hannah. It’s Not up to Your Twin, and Name. ""Why Do I Feel So Unloveable?" (And the Best Therapies That Help)." Harley Therapy™ Blog. October 11, 2019. Accessed July 02, 2021. https://www.harleytherapy.co.uk/counselling/why-do-i-feel-so-unloveable.htm.
 "17 Things to Do If You Feel 'Unlovable' Today." The Mighty. July 02, 2021. Accessed July 02, 2021. https://themighty.com/2018/02/i-feel-unlovable-single-lonely/.