Living out 1 John 3:18, “Let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth” (NIV) can bear peacemaking fruit in our relationships. Thankfully, God loves us with actions and in truth whether we are at odds with him or not. Investing in a relationship with someone we are at odds with, assuming it is not an abusive relationship, can reflect that same type of love and have significant impact.
“I Never Expected You Would Take Care of Us”
Yang Lin, a woman I interviewed in China, had experienced years of opposition and relational rejection from her in-laws. Despite this treatment, when her father-in-law was hospitalized, Yang Lin chose to lovingly care for him.
Last year my father-in-law became ill. . . . I was the only person available to help. So I set aside my work and went to their city to take care of him. I took care of everything for them from finding a doctor to arrangements for the hospital stay.
My mother-in-law’s heart was weak at that time, so I couldn’t let her stay with my father-in-law at night. I spent the nights with him instead. Sometimes I returned home during the day to teach, making for long days. . . . In the end, he was unable to move and just lay on the bed, so I would bathe his body, including taking care of his waste.
Then my husband’s father, deeply moved, said to me, “I never expected that you would take care of us like this. After the way we treated you. . . . I am so sorry.”
He was later baptized in his hospital bed, and I said to him, “We are one family in the Lord now, I am so thankful!”
Before he passed away last year, he [again] apologized to me. My heart was released, and I felt all these years of effort were not in vain.
The relationship with my husband’s mother also suddenly and completely changed. She affirmed me and apologized to me . . . for treating me poorly. Additionally, she also came to believe in the Lord!
The relationship changed from one in which they completely ignored me, to tolerance, to them being kind to me on a surface level. But in the end, when others asked them if I was their daughter (a daughter-in-law would never take care of in-laws like that), they would say, “Yes, she’s my girl, my daughter.” I was so happy. I finally felt affirmed.1
Yang Lin’s humble and sacrificial care, despite years of being rejected, resulted in her being fully received as a daughter and her in-laws placing their faith in Jesus Christ. Here are two individuals who might never have come into a relationship with Jesus without the sacrificial, Spirit-prompted fruit of loving actions from one who could have chosen to stay away.
“Lord, Let Me Exercise Patience to Bear with Her”
Knowing how deeply God loves us makes a pivotal difference in being able to love others with the same kind of love. Chen Yuling described how God enabled her to love people she didn’t even like:
Before I believed in Jesus, if I had an affinity for you and found you easy to get along with, I would spend more time with you. If I didn’t think much of you, I simply would not spend time with you. But after believing in Jesus, I am no longer that way.
I lead a spiritual growth small group at our church. In this group, we have all different types of women. Some of the women truly are not loveable, to the degree that sometimes, frankly speaking, they are annoying. But, when that happens, I remember that Jesus loves this woman just as he loves me. . . . At this time, I talk to the Lord, drawing strength from him, “Lord, let me exercise patience to bear with her. Lord, I pray for her.”2
Though knowing God’s love doesn’t necessarily make it easy to love people who are irritating and difficult, it does make loving possible. Our relationship with God will expand our understanding of love, and God gives us strength to love even those we previously would have ignored. An expanded view of love leads to more expansive love in even the small yet impactful day-to-day events of life.
Note: Watch for Jolene’s forthcoming book, Changing Normal: Overcome Barriers to Resolving Conflict, Start Reconciling Relationships, for more examples of how bearing the fruit of the Spirit contributes to peacemaking and relational reconciliation.
Having spent much of the time between 1997 and 2020 committed to working overseas in China, Jolene Kinser now lives in southern California. Jolene works as a global Chinese peacemaking ministry developer and educator and as a peacemaking specialist under the South Pacific District of the Christian and Missionary Alliance. Jolene …View Full Bio
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