The third test John provides is a difficult one. In chapter 2, verses 9-11, he wrote, “If anyone claims, “I am living in the light,” but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is still living in darkness. Anyone who loves another brother or sister is living in the light and does not cause others to stumble. But anyone who hates another brother or sister is still living and walking in darkness. Such a person does not know the way to go, having been blinded by the darkness.”
Evidently John’s readers were faced with the same challenge we are…learning to love difficult people. In my own experience, the most difficult people I’ve had to deal with are “church people,” and if you’re like me you have plenty of stories about people in the church who have said or done terrible things to you.
The core value of our faith is love, but love is only authenticated when it’s tested. Difficult people provide two hidden blessings for us. For one, difficult people reveal character. Much is said on the surface regarding loving others and how important it is for us to “love our neighbors.” But when our lives intersect with those who are difficult it reveals whether or not we really love others. The second blessing that difficult people offer to us is the opportunity to build character. They provide us with the opportunity to love everyone, not just the easy ones. Every challenge we face is a chance to grow.
There’s a lot of talk in the media about valuing tolerance. Tolerance is advocated for those who are difficult and different. But demonstrating mere tolerance is less than the expectation of Christ. Christ does not command us to passive tolerance. He commands us to actively love everyone, even the difficult and different. In doing so, we give evidence that we know God.