Whether you’ve been following Jesus for decades or you’re still on the fence about God, loving people can be painful, uncomfortable, exhausting, and even grueling at times. Love can hurt.

Loving others used to come so easily.

As kids, we’re naturally quick to trust.

Quick to forgive.

Quick to love others.

Strangers almost immediately become friends.

It’s why we have to tell kids not to climb into shady-looking vansand accept candy from people they don’t know—they trust and love everyone, immediately. Kids are more innocent, but they’re also more ignorant, and sometimes ignorance truly is bliss. Shorter memories, fewer insecurities—what’s not to like about being a kid?

But with each year that passes, it seems like loving people gets a little harder. At some point, our hearts become jaded, cynical, and skeptical.

We become slow to trust.

Slow to forgive.

Slow to love others.

We look for ways to keep our neighbors at a distance. Our relationships now seem to come with scorecards, keeping track of how well the other person is loving us. Kids’ soccer games and birthday parties are easy to forget, but the mistakes of certain family members never leave our heads. Friends slowly become strangers.

The older we get, the more difficult love becomes as relationships (and life) get more complicated. If I’m honest, most days I struggle to love anyone. I’ve never struggled to love people more than I have the past couple of years.

But love is everywhere. Love is something we hear about, wear on our shirts, post about on social media, sing about, even a word we get tattooed on our bodies. For many of us, when the word love leaves our lips, it sounds fluffy and beautiful—like sunshine, fairytales, and unicorns. Who wouldn’t want to love others when love is so great? If you’re a decent human being with a soul, love is a banner you should carry.

Yet more than any other time (at least it feels this way to me!), love seems absent from our attitude, words, and actions. We say we love others, but we really don’t. Instead we’re quick to shake our fist at drivers, judge the stranger who looks strange, and trash the person who thinks differently than we do online. We gossip behind the backs of our coworkers, and daydream about body slamming certain family members. Instead of loving people, we hurt, belittle, and overlook them.

Here’s the deal though: do you remember when your kindergarten teacher wrote the rules of your classroom in the upper right-hand corner of the chalkboard? Can you picture it?

Rule 1: Raise your hand.

Rule 2: Respect your classmates.

And that’s all there was! Pretty easy, right? Well, Jesus does the same thing with us when it comes to love.

Rule 1: Love God.

Rule 2: Love others.

Rule 3: There is no Rule 3. That it’s. Just do those first two over and over.

According to Jesus, these two “loves” are the two most important things. Simple, right? Maybe. But even with Jesus “in my heart”, loving people is much easier said than done. Whether you’ve been following Jesus for decades or you’re still on the fence about God, loving people can be painful, uncomfortable, exhausting, and even grueling at times. Love can hurt.

And Jesus didn’t just talk about love generally—teaching about love from a stage to an adoring crowd. Instead Jesus loved people intentionally. He got face-to-face with people. He didn’t just talk about love. He loved specific people.

Sick people. 

Bad people.

Normal people. 

Broken people.

Religious people. 

Judgmental people.

Awkward people. 

Overlooked people.

Contagious people. 

Ugly people.

Different people. 

People who were different from him in every possible way.

Difficult people. 

People who were so incredibly hard to love.

Jesus knew their story. Who they were. He knew their names. Their status–or lack thereof. And he loved them anyway.

Jesus shows us that knowing a person’s story is the path to fully loving them. The pathway to love always begins with a story. Not our story, but their story. We can’t love people if we can’t truly see them, and we can’t really see and know people without knowing their story.

The truth is, no one is normal. We all have our own unique stories.

The stories of people aren’t always polished or pretty. In fact some of them don’t have happy endings—or any ending at all yet. But these stories, these people, have taught me how to love better, how to love more fully, and how to love like Jesus more than any textbook or how-to guide ever could.

You see, love has a name. And that name? It’s Jesus. 

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