Eyes That See: Loving the Ungrateful During the Holidays

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Eyes That See: Loving the Ungrateful During the Holidays

November 26, 2018  - By Gretchen Saffles

Loving Others When It's Not So Easy: Loving the Ungrateful During the Holidays

Every year, amidst the cheerful tunes ringing throughout stores, the twinkling lights adorning the rooftops, and the comforting scent of cookies baking, there always seems to be a “scrooge” I come across who crushes the joy of the season. It could be a family member who refuses to crack a smile beneath the scowl on their face, or a grocery worker who ignores your Christmas greetings, or the waitress who gets your order completely wrong after you just left the most wonderful service at church (and doesn’t apologize for the mishap), or a police officer who pulls you over for speeding when you were already running late to your child’s Christmas performance. You’re bound to come across at least one person this season whose indifference to Christmas will squash your own joy for a brief moment and, perhaps, cause you to forget what this season is all about in the first place.

Look Up and Out

I’m guilty of this myself. Just one bad attitude from a stranger can send my heart reeling in frustration, and even anger, at times. My attitude can change in the blink of an eye when I become dependent on my circumstances for my joy. Years ago I scribbled this definition of “attitude” in the margins of my Bible: Attitude is an outward expression of an inward emotion. Our attitudes express the state of our hearts, and if you’re like me, I wear my emotions visibly through my attitude. What we think and feel is what others will be able to see through our actions, demeanor, and facial expressions. Worry begets a tense forehead and downcast face. Anger begets shortness of breath and a lack of patience. Depression begets aloofness and disinterest. Doubt begets frustration and anxiety. And brokenness begets a hopeless expression of loss.

Everyone around us is, at any given moment, experiencing some kind of emotion on the broad spectrum of feelings. Circumstances change rapidly, and so do our attitudes. Not a day goes by in which someone is not walking through excruciating pain, enduring unbelievable loss, or experiencing unexpected trials—all of which can be the cause of a “scrooge-like” countenance and attitude. No one is exempt from the brokenness of sin that has wreaked havoc on our souls. However, as Christians, we are not without hope, and in knowing this we have an opportunity to look up and out at the world around us with great compassion and mercy this Christmas.

He loved by speaking truth, living with one purpose, and bringing the hope of heaven with Him to earth. Throughout the gospels, the writers recorded various points of Jesus’ ministry, all which give us a gospel-centered example of how we are to live these fleeting days on earth, and more so, how we are to love the “scrooges” around us at Christmas.

Eyes Wide Open

Jesus, the very One we celebrate, exemplified this kind of love and affection. He saw people’s hearts with seeming X-ray vision. He noticed the outcast and broken. He invited sinners to eat dinner with Him. He paused to talk to those with much faith and those plagued with doubt. He loved by speaking truth, living with one purpose, and bringing the hope of heaven with Him to earth. Throughout the gospels, the writers recorded various points of Jesus’ ministry, all which give us a gospel-centered example of how we are to live these fleeting days on earth, and more so, how we are to love the “scrooges” around us at Christmas.

Jesus was attentive to those around Him, living with His spiritual eyes open at all times, seeing people as they truly were and as they could be.

Never was He flustered by the rude person next to Him. Never did He shame another for their pain. Never did He act as if another was lesser than He. Rather, He spoke the truth in love to his neighbor (Eph. 4:15). He invited the lonely to His side. He spoke to people He never should have associated with from a human perspective. Jesus showed us a better way to live, love, and look at the heart of those around us. And it all begins with having our eyes open and hearts set on glorifying God, even when it seems we have been wronged or another person is not doing likewise. Romans 5:8–10 tells us that Jesus loved us at our worst. Aren’t we to love others just the same?

Love Others Like Jesus Loves You

You will never fully know what the person in front of you is going through, what struggles grip their hearts, what sorrows pervade their souls, or what hurt is causing them to push back. You may not understand why they won’t receive the love you are attempting to extend to them or grasp why they have lashed out at you (1 John 4:10). But you can know that God loves them just as He loves you. You can know that Jesus came for them as much as he did for you. You can pray for their hearts, smile genuinely even if they don’t smile back, and give sacrificially in spite of their ungratefulness. Why? Because of Jesus.

We are to live this way because of John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” God so loved. God gave. For us. And we, as his children, are to love in this way because Jesus dwells in us, transforming our hearts from the inside out, one attitude at a time.

This season, love others like Jesus has loved you. Put your phone down when you walk the aisles of the grocery store and look people in the eye with a smile of grace. Pray for them as the Spirit moves, and tell them about Jesus in simple conversations. Small talk, when filled with the aroma of Christ, goes a long way in the kingdom of God. Even if they don’t receive it, even if they don’t notice it, even if it takes everything within you to do, worship Him by living like Him. He came to earth in the flesh, emptied Himself, and died a gruesome death so we could receive the miraculous gift of salvation. After all, He saw your “scrooge-like” heart, purified it, and reignited it. What if He desires to do the same in someone near you? Don’t miss God in the hustle of the holidays. Slow down, look up, and love the ungrateful—like you have been loved by Christ.

Your Sister,
Gretchen

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Loving Others When It's Not So Easy: Loving the Ungrateful During the Holidays
Loving Others When It's Not So Easy: Loving the Ungrateful During the Holidays

  1. Jessica N Mathisen

    November 30th, 2018 at 4:53 pm

    Needed this so much! For my own ungrateful heart, too. Thanks Gretch.

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