When challenging ourselves to treat others with love and respect, it can be difficult to see anything worth loving and respecting in them. Drug dealers, dole bludgers, disobedient kids, and disabled people (who may seem like a drain on society).
It is easy to put yourself above these others because you have no illegal addiction, work for your livelihood, obey the rules, and contribute more than you take. But these things are very minor, vanishingly minor even, compared to the one thing which gives each of us our surpassing worth.
You, me, and everyone who makes you grind your teeth in “righteous” anger at their worthlessness – we are all made by God and made in his image. Being an image bearer of the God of the Universe is a crown of high royal standing and worthy of love and respect. This is true even if those people are not living up to the standard for which they were created. Mistreat royalty, even if they mistreat you first, and it is “off with your head”.
I want to say it again because it is so important that you understand this: Our worth comes from our relationship to God. He made all of us. Our actions don’t really reflect our worth because we all fail to live up to that high, high standard which our Creator has set for us.
A quick note on love: love is not always a feeling, and that is true most especially in this case. Love is committing to do what is caring for another’s wellbeing and reputation, and honouring their inherent value through actions. The feelings tend to follow in any case. Sometimes it is hard to feel love for certain of your family members but you do the loving thing anyway. It’s not such a huge step to love your enemies from there. It is often those closest to you, who you love the most, who will wound you the worst anyway!
A quick question: We can see now (hopefully) that everyone is worthy of your loving kindness, but are you truly living up to the value of your own royal worth? How can you know? What can you do if you are failing in this?
You can only know what is expected of you by reading the instructions from your Creator and following them as best you can. Read your Bible for the details but here is the essence of those instructions:
You are expected to be perfect in pleasing your Creator. That is what he made you for. Nobody has lived up to that level of worth and we are all guilty of undervaluing ourselves and others. This is such a wicked crime because it means we are undervaluing the One who made us and stamped his image on us. We have failed to please God by our actions and attitudes towards each other and towards God.
But God is merciful and made a way for us to be forgiven and to be restored to the function for which he made us. Rather than take our own deserving punishment in hell, God’s son Jesus will take it for us on the cross if we turn to him and follow his way of living. This will begin a personal transformation toward purity which will continue through this life. And when Jesus returns at the end of the age we will complete that transformation and we will be perfectly pleasing to the Lord. We will never again undervalue him or his image.