We’re supposed to love our neighbors, but what if they don’t love us? Amid the increased polarization and anger in American discourse, in particular, the changing attitudes toward Christians, it can be tempting for believers to retreat further into our comfort zones.

Collin Hansen from the Gospel Coalition says the Gospel actually calls us to do the opposite.

“As Christians, we’re called to love our enemies, and we’re called to pray for those who persecute us. In a culture where fear and loathing is communicated through so many different means, Christians don’t really have that option. Even if the world doesn’t feel very warmly about us, we share our love with them, we share our warmth with them, because we’re loved by God, who has forgiven us in Christ.”

“Therefore, we can go forward in confidence and even love those people who might not love us back. It’s ultimately what Jesus did on the cross so we, born-again Christians, have every resource that we could possibly want to be able to be able to do that…to break this cycle of recrimination, this cycle of fear and loathing, with faith and love.”

Hansen says we can take this moment as an opportunity to look deeper than issue disagreements, to see a person whom God loves.

“One of the things that helped me get through this election season was thinking specifically of people I know, I love, and I look up to in my own family and within my own church, who saw things really differently than I did. And I want them to be able to treat me that way–I’m not just a collection of these things that I think, or (what) I share on Facebook, but I’m a real person who is really just trying to follow God in a way that will be honoring to Him.”

“I think this is an opportunity Christians have in such a polarized environment, to be able to love people for who they are, and trust God to be able to work miracle in their lives, to grow them in holiness and Christ-likeness.”

It’s not an easy command: we instinctively want to hold back from investing deeply in someone who wouldn’t return our regard. However, sacrificially giving our time and care to serve our neighbors (even our enemies) is precisely the example Christ set for us to follow.

“What a different perspective it would give us if we truly believed that Jesus has overcome the world, even when it doesn’t look that way in the headlines, even when it doesn’t look that way in our own neighborhoods.”

“I think that’s the hope and the confidence that He wants to give us, to be able to take that step with a neighbor, to love that neighbor in tangible ways–especially telling that neighbor the good news about Jesus.”

Collin Hansen is editorial director for The Gospel Coalition. He’s the author of Blind Spots, and co-author (with John Woodbridge) of A God-Sized Vision.

Can you love a neighbor you fear?