Every time I hear a Mainland Chinese person manning the economical rice store, my heart sinks. What is supposed to be an efficient speak, point-and-go interaction tends to break down.

Once, an order of ko lo yok (sweet-and-sour pork) earned me a scolding. The guy couldn’t understand me, and I had forgotten the Mandarin term for the dish. Another time, “one kopi C please” became one iced kopi C. Not my ideal breakfast drink.

For the uninitiated: How to order kopi like a pro.

Why can’t these people learn to do things the Singaporean way? Why do we have to bend over backwards for them? They’re so loud, so annoying.

I tried to minimise my contact with them. But God wasn’t letting me off so easily. He knew that I knew that these thoughts just weren’t the way I was supposed to think.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is: Love your neighbour as yourself. There is no command greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31)

If I were to be honest, some people are much easier to love. Perhaps they’re cute, pleasant, require less sacrifice. Maybe some have simply caught me on a good day. 

But to truly love God, we have to love people. All people. All the time.

We must love the ones who look and sound different from us. The ones who think differently. The ones who raise hands during worship, and the ones who don’t. The ones who call themselves Christians, but have gossiped about, slandered, cursed and wronged me.

We are called to love the insufferably self-righteous. The #humblebrags. The betrayers. The ones who spew alternative facts. The ones who call us names, smug in the wisdom of their intellect and choices. The “lost causes”.

We must learn to love others because while we were still sinners, God made room for us. We hated everything God represented. Did not want to believe. Wanted to live our own lives in our own way, on our own terms. God was holy, and we wanted nothing to do with the light. We wallowed in darkness. We loved sin. More fun, lah.

But this is love: Not that we love God, but he loved us and sent His Son as the atoning sacrifice for our sins. (1 John 4:10)

And so, we love. Even the difficult people.

As Jesus reminds us, “My child, did you think you would get a gold star for loving when it’s easy?” (Modern paraphrase of Matthew 5:46) 

Okay God, you win.