The Difficult Patient
In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 1 John 4:10-11
Most people understand that they can choose a different physician if they feel like theirs isn’t a good fit for them. If you desire, you can fire your doctor from being your doctor. It works both ways though. A physician or clinic can fire a difficult patient. If a patient is verbally abusive or physically threatening, or if he (or she) simply never shows up for appointments, a clinic can refuse to see that patient, essentially firing him from the clinic. To be clear, if you’re now worried about getting fired, then you’re definitely not one of those patients.
In jail though, where I provide medical care for inmates, I can’t fire the difficult patient. It’s just not an option as there’s no one else who can assume that inmate’s care. I’ve gotten myself into this situation where a patient can (and occasionally does) say horrible things to me. The relationship may become adversarial, and I may not like the patient very much, but still, I must do what I can to provide that patient with good medical care. It’s what I signed up for – It’s my job.
This isn’t a bad way to view the Christian life. As followers of Christ, we’re commanded to love those around us, even if it’s in our nature not to like them very much. In today’s passage, John explained the reason behind this. In the passage, John said that God loved us before we ever loved him. In fact, as we’ve all followed ourselves instead of God, we’ve all chosen to live in opposition to him. But Christ’s sacrificial death provided us a route back to a right relationship with the father. He loved us, before we were lovable and before we loved him. As Christians, we must now love others, even those who don’t love us and even those whom we find unlikable.
We’re simply not going to like everyone we meet. We’ll even have open conflict with some people. It’s in our nature to withhold love and forgiveness from those individuals. Frankly, we reserve the right to hate some people. Following Christ though, means letting go of our rights and abandoning our hate. This is difficult, but as followers of Christ, we’re commanded to love as he loved, loving even those we find unlovable. This doesn’t mean we’ll like everyone. It does mean though, that we’re to treat others as God asks us to treat them – often despite our negative feelings.