We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he hasn't seen. 1 John 4:19-20
Human relationships are funny things. We say that we dearly love others, our spouses, children, parents, siblings, but then they hurt us or betray us and a funny thing happens to that love, it diminishes. It shouldn't. It's perfectly understandable to feel the hurt or anger, to want a time out from the other person. It is not acceptable to stop loving them. On some occasions it seems impossible to give love but it isn't. It's a choice.
I have a few people very dear to me, people who also used to be very near to me but are no longer. If I expressed a decline in my love for them most people would nod and commiserate with me. Many would give me examples of similar relationships in their own lives. Wrong! Yes, my feelings have been hurt. That's an understatement. My heart is broken but it wouldn't be if I didn't love the ones from whom I am estranged.
It is my choice to throw away my investment in those lives and see it as a loss or to continue to invest in them and pray for their best, even if I never see answers to the prayers. It is my choice to focus on what is, the hurt and separation or to remember what was, that in the beginning, for years and years, there was love, fun and joy. I need to remember that the person I loved is still there, though they may appear different, that person still exists. True love wishes that joy, fun and love are still prevalent in the lives of those who used to be near. True love still holds them very dear to my heart.
While it is a choice it is not an easy one. Flesh wants to rage at the hurt and sadness, at the empty space. Grace says no. Grace turns my face to the One who loved me first and loves me still, even when I offend Him or walk away to give my time or attention to something far less worthy. Jesus gave His life for us, for people who would never deserve His life or His love. He makes us worthy to receive the gift He gives so freely.
When you're tempted to hold onto bitterness or hurt, to paint someone with the brush of your anger or disappointment, look to the Cross. We're painted in the blood of the Lamb, drenched in love that we disregard far too often but when we're wise enough to receive it, enables us to love in a similar way.