Black Jelly Beans: Loving the Unlovable

“By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35

Everyone has someone in their life that is simply “unlovable”. They are like the Black Jelly Beans. No one likes them, but they are always there, so you have to learn how to deal with them. You either toss them aside, simply tolerate them, or, slowly, start to pick the black ones out of the bag first.

Learning to love the Black Jelly Beans in our lives enthusiastically, intentionally, and deliberately isn’t always easy. In fact, it almost never is. In most (healthy) friendships, there is mutual respect, open lines of communication, and sacrifice on both sides. In the Black Jelly Bean kind, the opposite is often true. When it comes to the Black Jelly Bean, it is all take and no give, they seek to hear, see, and believe only the worst about you and in you. And if you are looking for them to respect you, you will be disappointed. Every. Single. Time.

This is the point that the world would tell you to throw that Black Jelly Bean away, and find someone who is, in a word, nice. Not hateful or resentful or manipulative or dramatic.

But that is not what Christ has told you to do. He has called you to love. Period. Not love if they deserve it. Not love is you want to. Not love if they love you back, and certainly not love, but only if they respond to you when you say “have a great day!’.

Love. Period. No contingents. No qualifiers. No buts. Just love. So love you do.

And love I do.

This Black Jelly Bean relationship is exhausting, heart-breaking, trying, devastating, and draining. There simply is no way around that. It wouldn’t be, if you didn’t care. Throwing it away makes sense, and would be so much easier. But not only would it be a sin to throw it away,

I have chosen not to. 

I have decided to love the Black Jelly Beans in my life. With deliberation. With intention. With purpose. And with prayer.

As Christians, we are called to love selflessly and ceaselessly.

1 John 4:20, it says this:

Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.

Beth Moore stated that “Hostility towards a member of the Body of Christ is contempt for the Cross.”

Jesus was teaching his disciples, and compared those who are only nice to people who are nice back to them to the demons. Love really should cost us something (it cost Jesus his life) and if we are only nice to those who quote on quote deserve it, we aren’t doing anything differently than people who do not know the Lord.

Here, in the Beatitudes, Jesus gives explicit instructions as to how we are to treat the Black Jelly Beans in our lives.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 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.”

So there’s that.

We are called to love, serve, and pray for those pesky Black Jelly Beans. It costs us, but with the help of The One who is Sustainer, it doesn’t have to run us down or wear us out.

This has been something that I have been praying through lately, and I found a really great post on Ashes to Beauty called  7 Ways to Love Unlovable People that gave great, practical steps when it came to dealing with the Black Jelly Beans in our lives.

  1. Understand: Understand that there is a reason that they act the way that they do. Either the way that they were raised, something that happened to them, or maybe something else entirely. Bottom line, if someone is constantly hurting you, for no reason, they more than likely are hurting as well. Just because you do not see that reason, it is still there.
  2. Pray for them: “This, of course, is what Jesus tells us to do. And it really is amazing how praying for someone or something causes our own heart to change for that person or issue. When we sincerely pray for someone, we begin to have a heart for that person, a true concern for their well-being and a desire for their highest good. It may be difficult, at first, to pray for a mean or unlovable person. But prayer is exactly what a person like that needs, don’t you think? And remember, God can work miracles, so don’t give up on someone or write them off as hopeless.”
  3. Look at them through God’s eyes: “Sometimes certain experiences in a person’s life change who they really are, or harden their heart. Everyone has an original design – qualities and gifts that God gave us when He created us. Unfortunately, when a person is wounded or broken, they aren’t walking in their original design. So try looking at people through God’s eyes, and see the person God created, rather than the hardened person they have become.” Whether they act like or not, or whether they even believe it themselves, they truly do have the fingerprints of God all over them. They are a child of the Creator King. And they deserve to be treated as such.
  4. Impart God’s Love and Grace: “We all know how difficult it can be to love certain people. This is where we need to choose to love them, with God’s love. Remember that all people are created in God’s image, and He loves even that person you see as unlovable. So we can be a vessel of God’s love. This is what changes hearts and wins people for God. It is God’s goodness and kindness that leads people to repentance (Romans 2:4), not arguments, lectures or “punishing” people by the way we treat them. So if you want that unlovable person to change, a good start is to love them with God’s love.”
  5. Forgive them: Yikes. This one is the hardest for me.”Yes, it can be very difficult to forgive people who have hurt us. But do you really want to live with anger, bitterness and resentment? As Christians, we are commanded to forgive others, as God forgave us. (Eph 4:32) Keep in mind, forgiving people doesn’t mean condoning their actions. It means letting go of your bitterness and resentment toward that person, or a desire for revenge, and handing it over to God. Let God do His job. Forgiveness changes our own heart and attitude and it allows us to move forward and be right with God.”
  6. Treat them the way you want people to treat you: Feelings follow action. Not the other way around. Sometimes, you really just have to fake it ’till you feel it. And they deserve to be treated fairly, because they are fellow image bearers of the One true God. NOT because of anything that have, or have not done. 
  7. Serve them: ““Serve them?” you ask. “Are you crazy, I don’t even like being around this person!” Yes, serve them, the way Jesus served others, which teaches us about love and humility. Serving someone is one way of showing love, and a sincere act of servanthood can soften hearts and plant a seed with people, that can later grow. Jesus washed the feet of His disciples, touched lepers and showed love to the kinds of people that others shunned. If the living God of the universe is humble enough to do those things, then how can we be above serving an unlovable person?

One final thought: We all are unlovable. But while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. If He can love even me, through Him, I can show His love to all the Black Jelly Beans that I will come into contact with.

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