How Do You Love the Unlovely?

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Do you know someone who isn’t walking with God?
…….…hurting others along the way?
Do you have a spouse who isn’t following God?
Do you have kids who are making unwise choices?
Do you have friends who mean well, but hurt you with their words or actions?
Is your heart broken over a relationship in your life?

How Do You Love Those who Hurt You?

It’s been a year since a friend of mine shared a story about true love for families & friends. I don’t know why it’s taken me a year to share it with you, but I trust God’s timing. As you read, please think about how God wants you to love in the midst of pain, grief, rebellion.

Why am I sharing it with you now?

If you’re like me, you have prodigals in your life that you pray for but they still rebel and feel unloved by Christians. Maybe even family members (spouses, kids, siblings). They’ve made a mistake (or two or three or hundreds) so they couldn’t bear to go back to a Christian community. They believe they will be condemned by Christians for their sins. Let’s face it…they probably would be condemned by most evangelical churches.

But just the opposite should be true.

How do you love those who hurt you? who are difficult to love?

There was a man, let’s call him Jack (not his real name). Jack left his wife, emptied their bank accounts and said his wife could have his business (which was worthless without him).

The church elders tried to contact him, but Jack did not respond. Let’s be honest, what prodigal responds to church leaders?

Jack was deceived by the enemy and the last person he wanted to see was a church leader.

Since Jack had one more speaking engagement, his wife told the elders where he was speaking. They left town to visit Jack. Not just drive to the next town, they hopped on an airplane to see Jack. They cared enough to leave home and spend money on a flight.

The elders visited with Jack, but he said he was not interested in reconciling with his wife. “No way…ain’t happening.”

So the elders returned to their church and immediately told the “church members”. I don’t know how they told the members or exactly what they said. I do know it was done quickly after the elders flew home. It was also shared with only church members, not the general group who comes on Sunday..

What happens next astounds me!

The church members reached out to Jack letting him know how much they loved him. I don’t know all they did, maybe lunch invites, dinner at their home. What I do know for sure is it included letters & notes of love.  Not how Jack should live according to the Bible, not condemnation, not discipline . . . but ways the church members truly loved him unconditionally.

Eventually Jack & his wife went to counseling. They worked on their marriage. And YES … they reconciled … and are still married!

When asked why Jack chose to reconcile with his wife when he originally said, “no way”, he replied…

I felt my church loved me!


That’s a miracle. A God miracle!

Jack was overwhelmed with God’s love through cards & letters, acts of kindness.

I wonder if those who hurt me would say that about me. That I love them unconditionally despite the pain, rebellion, hurt.

I pray regularly for the unlovely (or prodigal) to experience God’s unfailing, unconditional love, His kindness.

To be OVERWHELMED with God’s love
To see God’s unfailing love in someone on this earth.
To receive & accept God’s forgiveness, compassion, mercy.

I know what some of you are saying …

My loved one needs to repent; he or she needs to be told that he is sinning. Do you think he or she doesn’t already know he’s sinning? Is it my job to make someone repent? Nope…that’s God’s job. My job is to love unconditionally.

Three times in Sunday’s sermon it was said, “Kindness draws us to God.”

How do you love the unlovely? the prodigal? the one who hurt you deeply?

I believe we repent & turn to God when we experience God’s love (not man’s discipline). Discipline is a consequence, not the tool of restoration. Discipline is God’s action, not ours. Ours is LOVE.

My prayer continues to be that prodigals feel God’s unconditional love, through my family and me . . . that God brings people into our “unlovelies” lives to show unconditional love, to remind them of God’s loving and awesome work in their lives.

How has this love story impacted me?
might it impact you?

To reach out to those not walking with God in love … unconditional love.
To love like Jesus.

I know I’ve broken Jesus’ heart many, many times through my sinful life. Jesus is still there after I sin, with His unfailing love. So, I pray and ask God how I can reach out in love to the unlovely.

A few ways I’ve done this include:

  • Set Reminders on my phone every week or every other week … to reach out in love regularly
    … Letters/Cards
    … Invite to lunch/coffee
    … Invite to your home for a meal
    … Invite to a movie, golf or other event
    … Text
    … Tangible action of love
  • Send a Card in the mail that says “I care about you because …” or “I love you because …” or “I remember when …”
  • Share a Verse privately that shows God’s love (not discipline) via text, email or letter (good ol’ fashioned mail)
  • NOT post a verse on their social media page
  • Keep Praying that God will overwhelm my unlovely in love

Not sure what to write or say?

What would you tell your best friend to let them know you love them, care for them, pray for them?

How do you love the unlovely? How do you show God’s unconditional love to prodigals? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Other posts on Love:

Love of Friends

Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.  Joel 2:12-13



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  1. Wow! That is so true. Most often these days I feel like our church is saying “We don’t need you,” but we stay because of the few people who do show their love to us.

    1. I think most churches are an activity. An activity that we check off each time we go. God blessed us with relationships, but too often those relationships are good as long as we live a pretty, little life. Most churches have no idea how to handle the hurting prodigal except to excommunicate, saying we don’t need you. Your comment “we don’t need you” is true on so many levels.

      1. I’ll second this. When my parents split up, we were kindly asked to leave the church. I was a teen and it directly affected my relationships and my beliefs…I’m still not a fan of the ‘traditional’ church to this day.

        1. Thanks for your honesty. The evangelical church is often not loving with those who don’t all in place with their line of thinking. I’m so sorry you were at a church like that. Not all believers are like that, though.

  2. Your post is so full of truth. It is the Christian community, I’m afraid, that turns against brothers and sisters who fall for the same lie Satan tricked Eve with in the garden. The lie that God does not love them enough or intend to provide what is best for them. And thus, run from God trusting the flesh instead of the most gracious Father. It is those times when we, the body, need to rally around the hurting and needy brothers and sisters in love and grace and kindness. Instead, becoming haughty and high minded, we forget who we are and where we’ve come from. Sinners saved by grace in need of the Gospel every day.

    1. Angela,
      WOW…thank you for your beautiful comment. When we need the body of Christ the most, they are often not there for us. Yes, they run the other way! My personal opinion is that church leaders don’t really know how to handle sin or hurting people. They know how to run a church from a business standpoint, as long as everything is rockin & rollin’ okay.

      As a church we also forget God’s timetable is not usually our timetable. The prodigals I’ve seen return to God often take years to return to Him. As brothers & sisters in Christ, we need to show the same patience & love God has for us. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Thank You for this post. It needs to be shouted from the pulpits. Jesus was a friend to sinners. His whole life spoke love to the unlovely. It was the religious crowd that Jesus reprimanded the most. As a pastor’s wife, I find myself surrounded by biting sheep and prodigal family members. Sometimes I just know too much. Love cams be hard to choose, but it IS a choice, and we’re commanded to choose it. Again, Thank You!

    1. Kim,
      Thank you so much. I’m not a pastor’s wife, but I started praying for prodigals a few years ago. Last December, I started writing their names down. My list has grown to 26 in just 9 months. We often forget … love covers a multitude of sins. I Peter 4:8

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