I Fought the Love & the Love Won.
As a Christian I have heard the term “love one another” too many times to count. I have grown up hearing that God is love, and that we are to “love our neighbor as ourselves”. So many times I have heard all of this, and yet it is still so hard to practice.
I have been a very unhappy person for a long time. Up until about a year ago I was easily offended… all the time. I was often discontent with anything and everything, and quick to judge other Christians for not practicing what they preach, all the while, I was doing some of the exact same things.
Lately I have been given many opportunities to forgive, be thankful, act in love, practice forgiveness, and show a little grace and mercy to those who need it more then ever.
Maybe it is because I am realizing all of the faults in my own life, and the love & mercy that God has extended to me---but mainly because I am sick and tired of requesting perfection from anyone who has ever professed to be a Christian, and yet allowing lots of room for my own mistakes and short comings.
There are two things that I have been in a constant battle with. When I say battle, I mean that I can be so stubborn and hard-hearted, that I have been unable to justify to myself that it is ok to practice them.
The first is forgiveness. A few weeks ago in I couldn’t get the phrase “70X7” out of my head. If you haven’t grown up in church or don't know what the meaning is, just by reading it, its from Matthew 18:22 in the Bible when one of Jesus’ disciples ask him how many times they should forgive someone who does something against them. The basic point of Jesus’ message is--- never stop forgiving. I have learned that it is easy to say that we are full of grace and mercy, until a circumstance arises, where we are called to practice what we have been babbling on about. It is easy to say that we are Christians and full of forgiveness… until it is time to forgive. Forgiveness for me has always meant, displaying weakness. If I forgive, it will just mean that I am surrendering and allowing people to walk all over me, right? God has shown me that it actually does the opposite and it allows a freedom, and health to arise from the inside, and then eventually out to other people.
The second, is love. There are many different kinds of love that we encounter and share in our lives. There is the friendly love, the romantic love, and the love that God shares with us, as his children. It is sacrificial, it is unchanging, and it is a love that becomes a part of our whole being. I have always had a hard time finding love for people who “do me wrong” or I feel offended by. Don’t get me started on those whom I feel threatened by, or who have hurt me! The Bible speaks to this in Matthew 5:44. Jesus asks what good is it to love the people that love you already? Or to do good to those who do good to you? That is easy, and it is based on emotion. How much harder is it to reach out and love those who have hurt you? It requires sacrifice, and it becomes uncomfortable, but the reward is so great. I have had a relationship with someone for the last couple of years I would always describe my friendship with as one of “love”. I constantly would tell them how much I loved them, and that they were one of my greatest friends. It is easy to say this, and emotions and words can be impulsive. Recently I was let down by them. I was shocked, hurt, and disappointed… But I realized (for probably one of the first times in my life) that if I said that I loved them, and didn’t forgive them… if I didn’t extend grace and mercy… and if I am not going to stand beside them and hold their hand in a time of need, then there was no point in every extending those words to them in the first place. I have come to a place in my relationship with them where I have to make a decision- am I am going to love only when it is easy, and when they are doing all the right things?
If you are in a situation or relationship where you are given to opportunity to either forgive, and love – or remain angry and bitter, I encourage you to let it go, and forgive. Although it will take time to trust, and rebuild, the freedom that comes from forgiveness is wonderful thing. If you have been looking for God, and wondering who He is, and what he is all about, you should know that the way to know him is love. The Bible speaks to his being over and over again saying: GOD IS LOVE (Read 1 John 4:7-21).
I definitely haven’t mastered any of this! It is a choice that we have to make daily, and constantly be practicing. I thank God that he constantly reveals himself to me. He hears my prayers. He shows me who he is through circumstance and the people he has placed in my life. I thank God for loving me despite my stupid choices and mistakes. I am so thankful that he extends love to me, so that I can extend it to others (1 John 4:11). Because the reality is:
We are all on a journey trying to do what is right.
We are all learning.
We are all looking for answers, and figuring out who we are.
We are all fallen, and human.
We are all in need of forgiveness and love.