Emily drew a picture the other day of all the people in her life who love Jesus. Then she wanted to draw a new friend at school, and asked Dee if this friend loved Jesus. Dee suggested she could ask her to find out. So she returned from school with the news that she didn’t know anything about Jesus. Dee suggested that Emily could tell her little friend about him sometime.

Emily decided to add the friend to her picture anyway, “even though she doesn’t love Jesus.”

This morning I was asking Emily about her friends at school, and she mentioned this little girl to me for the first time. She said, “she doesn’t love Jesus, but that’s okay – I love her anyway.” We remembered together that Jesus loves this little girl even if she doesn’t know or love him.

Of course, we want those around us to love the Lord, to be grateful for the great Saviour who has loved us even to the point of his own death on the cross for them. But if they don’t, it shouldn’t stop us from loving and giving ourselves to them in friendship. If we want them to know the love of God in Christ, we’re probably more likely to show it to them by loving them than not loving them.

We have an ultimately benevolent God who loves even his enemies. Yet the church through the centuries has often become known for its harshness and judgments on outsiders. If we could learn to love those outside the family of Christians the way Emily is learning to do, we might just make the claim that “God so loved the world” a little more believable.