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You want to love them, but you have nothing in common, and that’s saying it politely. In reality, you differ from them in every way known to mankind. Ideology, culture, skin color, upbringing, political views, faith, you name it, and you two are different in that area. You know that Jesus said, “Love each other in the same way I have loved you” (John 15:12). But how do you even start? Do you just Just accept the fact you will never get along? Do you only love people you feel comfortable with? Or could there be another option?

When I lived in North Korea, I found the other option. Here’s the story of what I did to love like Jesus, even when hated by North Koreans. If these principles could help me in North Korea, they can help with people in your life as well.

4 Ways to Love like Jesus in North Korea.

“Americans destroyed our Nation,” our North Korean Guard stated during our briefing into the nation. Our team of eight fell silent.

Realizing that this statement was not the friendliest introduction to a tour group of young Americans he tried to clarify.

“Don’t worry, it was not the American women who fought and killed us, it was the men. We have no hatred towards American women.” The five women released a breath and smiled. The three men remained tense. 

Looking at the men he elaborated. “We love Korean Americans. You are our people. You were enslaved and forced to live in America. You don’t know any better, it is not your fault.”  Two of the three men, being of Korean descent, eased at his gesture of peace.

One man remained…

“It is the white, American man who destroyed our nation, cut our people in half, and enslaved our brothers. He is the one we can never forgive.”

He stared at me for a long moment, and then I realized. Oh, crud. I’m a white American man! I could feel the bitterness, the anger, and the pain built up in his heart. The object of these emotions? Myself. 

This was going to be a long 21 days in North Korea.

1. Find the Common Ground

“We have nothing in common, we just can’t connect,” is a reason I often hear as to why two people don’t get along.

“You do, you just haven’t found it yet,” is my response. I firmly believe everyone can find something in common if they try hard enough. Often our effort ends before the friendship can begin. Push through if you want a friend. 

 What in the WORLD do a North Korean man who hates Americans, and a 19-year-old American have in common? NOTHING on the surface. So I sought to find out. How do you begin to build a friendship? Ask A LOT of questions! I asked the North Korean guard about his life, interests, favorite color, movie, song, sport. I asked about his parents, siblings, grandparents. I asked about his home, his testimony, his dreams of the future. His favorite joke.

You name it, I asked it. I thought of ridiculous get to know you questions. And you know what I learned? WE HAVE A LOT IN COMMON! We both played soccer as children. Both had siblings. Both liked the movie Shrek, which apparently made it into North Korea. Both of us have insecurities. Both hope we will be married and have kids one day. Both want to travel. Both like to share funny stories. Both have embarrassing moments. Both have regrets, both have dreams.

He knew I was a Christian. I knew he was an Atheist. He knew I loved America. I knew he hated it. Big differences, yes. But we found we had enough in common to build a friendship. Whether it is a difficult coworker, an offensive family member, a Colombian Drug Lord, like I spoke about in my previous post, or a North Korean Guard, my answer is always the same. I will love them first. You can either choose to intentionally create common ground or wait and hope it appears. The former will produce friendships, the latter will produce clicks and walls.

The former looks like Jesus who came to us on our level. The latter looks like the Pharisees, who all grouped together and wouldn’t let you in unless you looked like them.  Which mentality do we have?

2. Interview, Don’t Resumé

When we meet people do we give them a resumé of everything about us? Or do we interview, showing intentional interest to know them? 

Rather than talking about my America, I asked him about his Korea. I made it my mission to know all about him. I asked him to teach me his language, I asked him about his culture, I showed him I didn’t know everything but wanted him to teach me. What’s amazing is the more I showed interest in him, the more he seemed to open up and show interest in me.

Often we only befriend those who show interest in us. But once again is this like Jesus? Did he wait, hoping someone will show interest in him? Or did he go find people, seeking and saving the lost? The whole gospel is that God took initiative and came to us. We must take initiative and show interest in others first.

When Jesus said “Go” and “make” disciples, this is not a passive mentality, but an active one. As Christians, we are called to go and find people, love them, befriend them, look like Jesus.

If you are a Christian, then you are a leader and a servant to those around you. Leadership is not a personality trait, its a calling given to you the day you got saved. Lead them to Christ through your love. Serve them to Christ by going low, even if they hate you. Who cares if they like me, Jesus promised many would hate me. What matters is that I will like them, because Jesus likes them. I love them because Jesus loves them. I will make the common ground, and I won’t resumé. 

He began to open up about the weaknesses in his life and nation. He shared what has happened to them since the war. Not the American version of the story we learn in history class, but his side of the story. The one he learned by calling North Korea home. His testimony. He teared up, became vulnerable with me.

Surprised he was opening up to his sworn enemy, he uncomfortably laughed and shook off his tears. He looked at me, and said, “Taylor, you’re not like other Americans. You are different.”

I was the first American to ever ask him about his life.

I promised you 4 steps. But this is getting long, next week you will get steps 3 and 4, plus the ending of what happened to my new “frenemy,” the North Korean Guard.

In the meantime, here are two challenges for you this week. 

Challenge 1

Go be intentional, find someone that you don’t know well, or naturally do not connect with. Go pursue them, and ask them questions until you find the common ground.

Challenge 2

This week when you speak with people, resist the urge to read off your “resumé.” Rather than telling them about your day, ask about theirs. Rather than telling about what you love, ask about what they love.

Do these two things for a week, and see if a friendship begins to form. I promise it will because you are starting to love like Jesus. 

What do you think? Comment Below! 

What are the ways you love like Jesus to people who hate you? What are some practical things you do to show people you are different and love them? I’d love to hear more examples!

Taylor Jensen

Author Taylor Jensen

Ignite the Fire of Your Faith

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