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Why We MUST Love Unlovable Church Members

I was a young pastor, and I was sure everybody in the church was kind, gracious and Christian. Everybody would treat everybody else with the love of God.

Needless to say, it didn’t take me long to learn that even in the church are people who don’t quite get there. Some people are really hard to love.

At the same time, I couldn’t avoid Jesus’ telling us to love God and neighbor (Matt. 22:34-40). Nor could I run from New Testament commands that we love one another (1 Thess. 4:9, 1 Pet. 1:22, 1 John 3:23). 

I would be lying to say I never struggle now, but I’ve learned something about loving others.

Here are 10 reasons why we must love even unlovable church members.

1. God loves them.

I take these words literally: “For God loved the world in this way … ” (John 3:16). He loves the arrogant church member, the person caught in sin and the follower who denies Him.

That’s the point: He who loves all of us with an amazing love expects us to love others similarly.

2. We show the power of the gospel by loving all people.

Jesus said our love for one another would be one way to show the world His love (John 13:34-35). The church is indeed a miracle—people from varied backgrounds and different races, all loving each other as a family brought together by the blood of Jesus.

Being family means we must love even those who occasionally drive the family crazy.

3. We live in Christian obedience when we show love toward all.

Christian love, while not being devoid of emotion, is an active love, a doing love—evidenced by how we act toward others. Our faith does not allow us to say, “Because I just don’t love you any more, we can no longer be in relationship.”

Rather, Christian love means we act as a Christian toward all people, even when our feelings aren’t there.

4. Some unlovable church members need Jesus.

Let’s face it: Jesus had a fake in His followers, and we’re not going to do better than He did. Among a church family are likely to be those who believe they’re Christian, but who never truly repented and believed.

They sometimes act as nonbelievers act … because that’s who they are. They need to see genuine Christian love so they might recognize their need for Christ.

5. Some unlovable church members are undiscipled believers acting like undiscipled people.

Some believers have never been taught. Their churches led them to the Lord and baptized them, but they often did not pour themselves into these believers. Consequently, some church members are still babies in Christ, despite their years in the church.

They need someone to help them see how much they need to grow—but it needs to be someone who truly loves them.

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Thom S. Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources (LifeWay.com). Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and six grandchildren. He was founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism, and Church Growth at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. His many books include Surprising Insights from the Unchurched, The Unexpected Journey, and Breakout Churches.