by Stephanie Olson, Co-founder Set Me Free Ministries
I have a confession to make. I hated people. I’m serious. When I was younger, people drove me crazy. Of course, I had my favorites. I was pretty nice to those people: my family, my friends, etc. But, I had no time for anyone else.
But then, the Lord got hold of me. As I desired to be more like Him, I desired to love more like Him. Believe me, it wasn't immediate, but I noticed over time (a long time) that I really thought differently of people.
My prayer was, God, help me love the unlovely. If only that were an instant change. It's kind of like the prayer for patience. He doesn't make us patient on-the-spot; no, He gives us opportunities to practice patience. And so, He didn't give me a new heart forthwith. Instead, He put unlovely, after unlovely, after unlovely person in my path. Interesting strategy.
And even as I began this ministry, I still didn't have that love for people I felt one might need for a ministry of compassion and love. But God is good. I would pray for a supernatural love for His people, and sure enough, He would give me what I needed for any given moment.
And that brings me to the present. I was recently speaking to a group of people when someone said something disparaging about, well, the unlovely. He made a comment that prostitutes were dirty. Something rose up in me, and I felt a true love for these women that I didn't even know. I immediately came to their defense as if someone had said something defamatory about my own children. And just like my own children, my heart for these women, and men, would be for healing, restoration, and redemption. I felt something different for those women in my heart that I wouldn't have felt ten years ago. Only God.
As I was praying about this on the way home that day, I realized something pretty weighty. I am one of the unlovely, and yet, God loves me. Jesus is known all throughout the New Testament for loving the unlovely. He often imparted a healing and loving touch on lepers, the unclean, sinners – the unlovely. Yes, including me. Praise God that He loves us even in our “unloveliest” of conditions. And praise God that He asks us to do the same.